• U.S.

Cinema: The New Pictures: Jul. 20, 1931

6 minute read

A Woman of Experience (RKO-Pathé). Formula for spy stories: a shady lady enters government service in wartime and is assigned to make friends with an enemy spy. She also falls in love with an aristocratic naval officer. The crisis comes when she saves the life of the naval officer, by outwitting the enemy spy. Few spy stories vary this formula greatly. A ‘Woman of Experience varies it not at all. Spy stories are currently favored by producers as a measuring stick for actresses who seem capable of being built up into a resemblance to Greta Garbo (Mysterious Lady). Helen Twelvetrees is charming, low-voiced, auburn-haired, but she lacks the exotic numbness of Garbo, Marlene Dietrich et al. Her quiet and intelligent acting leaves the melodrama plausible but not exciting.

The Secret Call (Paramount) is mainly notable because its leading lady, Peggy Shannon, is being publicized as the successor to itty Clara Bow, whom she replaced in this picture when Actress Bow became “indisposed.”

Stuart Walker, able technician of Indianapolis and Cincinnati stock companies, has handled the story well but shows his unfamiliarity with the cinema by not moving his camera around enough. Actress Shannon photographs prettily. Less provocative than Clara Bow, she shows more signs of histrionic intelligence. The story, borrowed from a 20-year-old play, is still ip to date in outline but its motivations re rusty, its crucial moments creak a little.

It concerns a girl whose father has committed suicide after receiving shabby treatment from a political boss. As a hotel telephone operator, she comes by the information which makes possible her revenge. Revenge is seldom sufficient for the plot of a cinema; the girl also loves the son of the man who caused her father’s death and will, presumably, marry him. Five and Ten (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) relates the horrid circumstances which may mar the financial success of a 5¢ & 10¢ store tycoon. Happy in Kansas City the tycoon and his dependents fall on miserable days when they move to a magnificent home in Manhattan. The tycoon’s wife allows herself to be cajoled by a mustachioed gigolo. The son of the family becomes a whiskey-sot. The daughter, painfully snubbed by socialites, falls in love with one who does not snub her (Leslie Howard). A denouement of sorts arrives when the son, overcome by alcoholic despair, commits suicide in an airplane. The tycoon then begins to look after his wife. The daughter, it seems, will get the man she wants although by this time he has married another girl.

The blatant plot of Five and Ten, conceived and executed as a magazine novel by Author Fannie Hurst, permits Marion Davies, hitherto an adroit though kittenish comedienne, to attempt an emotional role. Although Hearst papers, as is customary, hailed her efforts loudly, her deficiencies were made more than usually apparent by juxtaposition with the work of smooth, skilful Leslie Howard. The 5¢ & 10¢ store tycoon, chief character in the book but not the cinema, is able Richard Bennett, father of Cinemactresses Joan and Constance and Cabaret Dancer Barbara Bennett.

Rebound (RKO-Pathé). Playwright Philip Barry (in Paris Bound and Holiday) gave drawing-room comedy a new fillip by introducing into the speeches of his well-bred characters a form of “cuckoo humor”—causing them, in moments of emotional stress, to go into absurd monologs, parodying the attitudes and technique of serious fiction. Because Barry’s characters were rich and well educated, it came to be believed that such gaiety was the height of sophistication. Author Donald Ogden Stewart is an old hand at this type of humor and he employed it in his play Rebound. Less successful in Manhattan than either of Author Barry’s comedies, it was purchased for the cinema by RKO as a vehicle for cinemactress Ann Harding. Ina Claire got the role instead after dazzling cinema producers with a brilliant performance in Rebound on the Los Angeles stage.

The story concerns wealthy people who, it is fair to assume, would be bothered by fewer problems if they had more work to do. One of them is a youth whose fiancee has jilted him. With more chagrin than enthusiasm, he relapses into matrimony with the heroine who loves him and who is admired, puppy fashion, by a young architect. Natural complications arise. The husband meets his old girl again, starts an affair with her. His wife is angry, puzzled, finally sad, until feeble advances by the architect show her that one way not to find love is to beg for it. She then displays independence, is rewarded when her husband chases her to Paris. Amusing in spots and affecting in others, Rebound is likely to be over-appreciated by the minority of cinemaddicts, tolerated by the rest. Both classes will be appalled to note that Ina Claire, hitherto a best-dressed lady of U. S. stage & screen, wears an unflattering gown through a long portion of the picture.

Her appearance on the Los Angeles stage in Rebound last October followed a period of depression unique in the annals of Ina Claire. Born at Washington, D. C. in 1892 and named Ina Fagan, she had become by 1915 a distinguished performer in the Ziegfeld Follies. Ten years later, she was the first comedienne of the Manhattan stage, able to give her baldest line the glitter of an epigram. Her first venture in Hollywood was an undistinguished effort for Pathe called The Awful Truth. Her next was a marriage with John Gilbert which resulted in such frantic publicity for the last celebrated lover of the silent cinema that it made Actress Claire look a little foolish. Her contract with Pathé abruptly terminated. Actress Claire was signed by Paramount and given an opportunity to star in one of the best pictures of 1930, The Royal Family. Last winter she accepted a five-year contract with Samuel Goldwyn who rented her back to RKO-Pathe to translate Rebound into cinema. Hollywood chatterchippies have noted that she is now often seen in company with her leading man in Rebound, Robert Ames. Still married to Actor Gilbert, she seldom sees either him or Sylvia, Hollywood’s famed masseuse who in last week’s Liberty claimed credit for having whacked the lower portions of Actress Claire into shapes attractive to Actor Gilbert.

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