• U.S.

Cinema: The New Pictures: Jul. 15, 1940

4 minute read
TIME

The Man Who Talked Too Much

(Warner) is an echo of a 1932 picture called The Mouthpiece. It loosely recalls the life & doings of Manhattan’s once celebrated legal trickster, William J. Fallon, who, after saving many a client (including himself when he was accused of jury bribing), died of drink. The Man Who Talks Too Much, Steve Forbes (George Brent), comes to a better end. Disillusioned with the law when he sends an innocent man to the chair, he reacts to this experience by keeping as many guilty men away from it as he can until reformed by the example of a noble younger brother. High point in the picture, as it was in legend the low point in the career of Lawyer Fallon, is a scene in which he tosses off a vial of poison before the jury to show how harmless the State’s evidence is, hurries out of the courtroom after the acquittal to get his stomach pumped. One remarkable feature of The Man Who Talked Too Much was a suggestion by Warner’s publicity department to theatre owners that lawyers in their communities might get some helpful hints by watching Steve Forbes in action. Another remarkable feature of The Man Who Talked Too Much is its star.

If any other Hollywood leading man of George Brent’s stature appeared in so unassuming a picture, it would suggest that either his studio or his agent was quarreling with him or that he had begun to slip. In fact George Brent is on excellent terms with his agent, Minna Wallis (sister of Warner’s production chief, Hal Wallis), Warner is happily paying him $3,000 a week, and his popularity was never greater. His willingness to work in almost any kind of picture is only one element in Cinemactor Brent’s reputation as a man of mystery.

Son of a Dublin newspaperman, Brent left home and the Abbey Theatre when the British asked too many questions about his activities as a dispatch runner for the Irish Republican Army, has answered few questions since. He got a Hollywood job after making 31 unsuccessful screen tests, which he believes is the record. Because he had played a Broadway bit with Clark Gable and had broad shoulders, publicity men billed him as another Gable. Unlike Actor Gable and the majority of his colleagues, he never talks to fan magazine writers, spurns nightclubs, carries his dislike of Hollywood parties to the point of rudeness. This has made him much sought after and Hollywood’s premier hostess, Mrs. Basil Rathbone, is reported this year to have announced that she would trade Stokowski, Rubinstein and Rachmaninoff for one Brent appearance at a party.

Brent says he likes to have a good time “when the shades are down.” His first marriage to Ruth Chatterton ended in an amiable divorce and Brent’s best friend is Ralph Forbes, another Chatterton ex-husband. His second marriage, to one Constance Worth in Mexico, ended in an unamiable divorce. This year Ann Sheridan persuaded him to make his first visit to Giro’s, got him to promise to take her to his first premiere. When Brent discovered the premiere was on the night of his weekly navigation class (he recently bought a new 85-ft. yawl), he let the Oomph Girl down.

New Moon (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). In an earnest effort to recapitalize the Nelson Eddy who turned the heads of Jeanette MacDonald and millions of U. S. women in Naughty Marietta five years ago, M. G. M. returns him to Soprano MacDonald and 18th-Century New Orleans and provides him with a Sigmund Romberg score and a trunkful of romantic costumes. Eddy is a democratic duke who masquerades as a bond servant, captures the heart of a bayou beauty, shines shoes and overwhelms a French manofwar, meanwhile bursting into song. MacDonald is a spirited lass whose vocal replies include One Kiss and Lover, Come Back to Me. Between One Kiss and another, there is too much palling palaver, too much time to observe that the Eddy figure is becoming almost as operatic as the Eddy acting. Typical shot: MacDonald coyly popping her eyes at Eddy through a Venetian blind.

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