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"THE BROKEN MELODY." . I
"The Broken Melody," which is the latest film Ken O. Hall has prepared for Clnesound Productions, Ltd., shows the progress this Australian director has made during the past few years. The acting is smooth and natural, in a way which would not have been possible In the days of "The Squatter's Daughter." The settings, though they lack Hollywood's grandeur, are always attractive. In fact, they offer a splendid example of what can be done with comparatively limited means. And there la a musical climax which has been sung, played, and recorded in particularly
' If only the dramatic material deserved the attention that has been lavished on it! How much' of the weakness is due to P. J. Thwaites'« novel, and how much to Prank Harvey's adaptation, is open to argument. But
the defects remain.
The narrative tells the old, old story of the young composer who becomes famous and the.young soprano who suddenly takes the prima donna's place in his opera, and makes a success'out of a potentially disastrous first
Lloyd Hughes, of "Lovers and Luggers" and a host of American films, appears as the composer. With his easy manner and his unassuming charm, he makes the part con- vincing. His make-up and general demean- our in the earlier scenes convey with a good deal of force the impression of a man who is gradually drifting down from affluent self assurance into the grim, searing experiences of unemployment and hunger.
Diana Du Cane makes an unusual figure as the crooner who becomes an operatic singer. On the musical comedy stage, Miss Du Cane used'to seem uniformly bright and gay. But the-screen gives her quite a tragic air. She suggests well enough'the conventionally sweet heroine of small-time romance. Her big opportunity comes at the end of the film, when she descends a long stairway singinß an aria, which was written by Alfred Hill. The choral work at this point and the reson- ant tenor utterance of Lionello Cecil make the scene a musically imposing one. The elaborate set was. designed by J. Allan Kenyon. While visual' effects are the subject of com- ment, one must mention also Eric Thompson, the ort director of the film, and George Heath who did the photography. Mr. Hamilton Webber conducted orchestra and singers.
Much of the comedy in "The Broken Melody" is provided by Alec Kcllaway. He docs his best to be amusing; but the part is beyond him, as It would have been beyond anyone else. Joe is a genial pickpocket. He prides himself on his fame as a criminal; but when he puts this notoriety to the test by announcing himself to a policeman and asking to be locked up, the policeman laughs in his face. Joe insists. He clamours; he storms; he implores to be put in gaol. The policeman simply walks away. Such inci- dents furnish the material on which Mr. Kel lnway has to work He succeeds in making Joe seem a philosophical madman; but that
is as far as he can go.
Rosalind Kennerdale makes a success of the part of Henriette, a stormy prima donna. It is a stock character, but lively. That ex- perienced actor, Harold Meade, shows the value of stage experience in his strong treat- ment of Mr. Ainsworth, the young composer's father. Frank Harvey is smooth and con- vincing as an impresario; June Munro appears as the composer's sister; and Rita Pauncefort gives a highly effective acidity to the part of a fashionable woman. (Embassy Theatre.)
"FOUR MEN AND A
The great traditions of the British Army are rather pompously displayed in "Four Men and a Prayer." The four men get themselves mixed up with gun-running In South America, and with an attempt to smash an unscrupul- ous armament firm which sells cheerfully to both sides in a civil war. As a story, "Four Men and a Prayer" Is nothing to get excited about. But the situation is saved, and in- terest preserved, by a great deal of excellent acting. C. Aubrey Smith, as an army officer who suffers dishonourable discharge because of a forged document, brings his usual rugged force into the picture whenever he appears. David Niven's light touch finds great scope in the part of one of the colonel's sons. The other three sons are represented by Richard Greene, George Sanders, and William Henry. All four set out to retrieve their father's honour. Their tendency to act solemnly in concert is sometimes unintentionally amusing; but one must not ask too much of such a devil-may-care plot, which skips so nimbly across the face of the globe. Loretta Young, who can be so sweetly dignified when she likes,-Is wasted in the part of.a ridiculous minx.' The villlans are played by Reginald Denny'and Alan Hale, and Barry Fitzgerald takes a small part well. (Century Theatre.)
"FOOLS FOR SCANDAL."
"Pools for Scandal" Is frivolous entertain- ment submitted with the aplomb and polish one, generally associates with Mervyn LeRoy's film comedies. On the whole it is acted with considerable vim, even if Carole Lombard is not as amusing (even though just as voluble and vehement) as she has been in other breezy comedies. Still, as the most dynamic force In a production that is not as crazy as others of its kind, she Keeps the action moving swiftly as the film actress who visits London and Paris Incognito. There she Is success- fully wooed by a charming but penniless French marquis, also under an assumed name, but not before the Lombardian tantrums and caprices have been sufficiently aired.
The chief attraction of the picture is the appearance of the young Continental, Fernand Gravet. As the nobleman who acts as chef to be near his lady love, he possesses the poise and suavity of a well-trained film actor. As the young aristocrat whose passion for Kay Winters is as great as his gift for making crepe suzettes, he is a figure of elegant sophistication, with a neat sense of comedy. He displays a combination of the quiet dignity and assurance of Charles Boyer and the gay Impudence of Maurice Chevalier. Isabel Jeans is good, if a little over-accentuated, as the excitable and catty Lady Paula Malverton. Ralph Bellamy is heavily humorous as the American suitor for the actress's hand. Allen Jenkins, Marie Wilson, and Marcia Ralston are included in the cast. (Mayfair Theatre.)
Sometimes a programme support lias all the essentials for well-balanced entertainment: comedy with a dramatic undercurrent, and splendid portraiture plus good direction. Such a picture is R.K.O.-Radio's unpretentious offering, "This Marriage Business." Taking the leading role in it, Victor Moore excels himself as a genial old county clerk, whose marriage licences appear to be a guarantee of matrimonial bliss. A newspaper reporter publicises him and his town, and the old fellow becomes a butt for the local jokers and then a celebrity whose marriage licences arj bringing trade to the place. Gangsters create a dramatic angle by attempting to blacken the moral reputation of the old man when he stands for Mayor. But even this has its humorous aspects. Victor Moore gives a perfect performance, never once clowning, never raising his voice above a soft conver- sational tone. But his jaunty little walk, his way of speaking and his quaint gestures, his slow smile-all show the kindly old soul with his mildly Puckish sense of humour. Cecil Kellaway has a small role, and Jack Carson (as a camera man) furnishes some good broad comedy. Allan Lane and Vickl Lester pro- vide the robust romantic interest. (Embassy
A musical that takes In its stride something of the history of New York's famous night- club street duiing the past quarter of a century. Walter Wanger's production, "52nd Street" (released by United Artists), has period ro- mance as the basis of its narrative. One sees tile street develop from the era of its "leisurely brownstone days" (of social snobbery) to the present, by which time night-life sophistica- tion has often taken on the snobbish hauteur of such ladies as once made 52nd Street "the hallowed centre of aristocracy." One of these proud gentlewomen is Adela Rondell, whose father, her brother reminds her, was once "a street car operator." So one is not sur- prised when the democratic Rufus Rondell takes as his bride the beauteous cabaret singer, Evelyn Macy, in defiance of his sister's out- raged attitude.
The film lacks sustained atmosphere, but has moments of vigour and some genuine humour, although the cabaret scenes are dis- appointing in the latter part of the produc- tion. Ella Logan, Sid Silver, and Jack White are excellent in the burlesque, "Southern Bell," a comedy highlight of a picture that is worth seeing if only for the telephone conversation o' Leo Carillo, outstanding performer in the role of a street concertina player who becomes a night-club magnate. Ian Hunter, Zasu Pitts, Pat Peterson, Marla Shelton, and Dorothy Peterson lend personality to the pic- ture, which presents a number of well-known New York cabaret entertainers. (Capitol
"A SLIGHT CASE OF
Gangsterdom Is uproariously burlesqued in Warner Bros.' "A Slight Case of Murder." This Is a film with some novel comedy angles, and one of the best climaxes enjoyed for some time, a clever finish to an unusually bright picture. Much of it compounded of well-sustained farce, the story shows Edward G. Robinson in fine humorous mood as Remo
Marco, a millionaire racketeer. A beer baron till prohibition encourages him, to become a legitimate brewer, his product Is like aloes in the mouths of all his customers. Amazed at the inability of his ex-gunmen to sell his product, and on the verge of financial rum, he is. subsequently saved when four rival gangsters are murdered in his country resi- dence, where he has taken his daughter educated abroad, and, of course, unaware of her father's criminal activities.
A picture full of chuckles and permeated with satire, it has laughter hanging on most of its thrills, A thin thread of romance IJC tween Marco's daughter and a bankers son, develops the most hilarious episode of the film, when the girl's sweetheart (as a patrol officer) has to ,adopt a heroic and danger- ous pose, much against his inclinations. Ex- cellent direction and robust acting by a fine supporting cast make "A Slight Case of Murder," outstanding as farcical entertain- ment. (Mayfair Theatre.) '
"JOY OF LIVING."
. There are many philosophies of life, and the easiest and most enticing Is the hardest to put into practice. That, in the words of the dishing hero -in' "Joy of Living," is "to do what-you want to do whenever you want to do it." Apparently one way of achieving this expansive and undisciplined mood is to be wealthy and care-free, and 'With a flair for finding- happiness in simple enjoyments and ambitions-such iis owning a tropic island and wanting a beloved opera singer to share it with you after proving to her that two dollars (properly spent in the company of a trusty and infatuated swain) can procure mole fun and happiness than can two 'hundred or twu thousand dollars. Take a rich, debonair adventurer, such as can be smoothly portrayed by Douglas Fairbanks, Jun" as the owner of the island (as well as of a cargo boat that pays it way to get him there), and dashing Irene Dunne in' one of her most attractive moods as the singer who eventually succumbs to the allure of a tempestuous lover, and one has the chief essentials of a comedy such as "Joy of Living." Give the singer a selfish family living luxuriously and idly at their daughter's expense, and a good director like Tr.v Garnett has enough motive to set a story swinging gally into action.
To this simple plot. B.K.O. Radio have appended the usual hilarious episodes that round off the humorous appeal of such a nanatlve. These" are enacted in a. lively man- ner by Alice Brady (as the singer's Jittery and posing mother), Guy Kibbce (as the pompous and bragging actor father), and Eric Blore (smirking and ingenious as the family's butler). Dorothy and Estelle Steiner (as mis- chievous a pair of babes as the screen has presented) toddle through the film with imp- ish glee, "calling all cars" and peering in keyholes.
Irene Dunne's voice has never been better recorded Neither have her comedy gifts.been more apparent. As Maggie Garret, the prima donna, she sings.and acts with the ?. vivacity and vim which have made her one, oí the screen's finest comediennes, and without hav- ing to resort to buffoonery. As the impetuous idealist, Dan Brewster, Douglas Fairbanks,' jun., has an ideal role, well Infused with lils vigorous temperament. Touches of sincerity lend it character. He and Irene Dunne create uproarious and stimulating entertainment in the splendidly-presented skating, rink scene, a comedy highlight equalled In .a quieter vein bv Warren Hymer as the chaffeur who re- hearses the singer's part ..with,her' while they are driving home in the car. The dialogue here Is also excellent. Franklin Pangborn, Billy Gilbert, and Jean Dixon lend charac-' terlstlc aid to'the story. The latter is splen- did as a sanely sophisticated secretary. Some captivating music, with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, Is supplied by Jerome Kern. With well balanced romance, and fewer mad moods than most Irene Dunne comedies, "Joy of Living" is delightful entertainment. (Regent Thea- tre).
The smuggling of aliens into the United States provides plenty of,thrills as presented In Paramount's "Daughter of Shanghai." The picture takes the more melodramatic aspects of this racket, and opens with a striking incident, showing the dumping into the ocean of an aeroplane's cargo of human freight-Chinese who, endeavouring Illegally to enter America, are callously sacrificed by the aerial smugglers because of the pur- suit of their - 'plane by a Government one. The story throughout retains the tension of this opening sequence. Novelty is added to the narrative'by the two leading characters being Chinese. Í These are Lan Ylng Lin, daughter of a wealthy Chinese merchant, whom the racketeers murder when he re- fuses to join them, and Kim Lee, a Govern- ment agent. Both set out to track down the smugglers. The film has its best melodrama in a remote Island cabaret. Despite its tra- ditional Hollywood trimmings, there Is good atmosphere in this Port O'Juan hell-hole, where Charles Bickford (as the cabaret owner and agent of the racketeers), portrays with much gusto a typical Blckfordlan thug.
Anna May Wong and Philip Ahn, as the Chinese lovers who help to break the smug- gling ring, add to the realism of the film. J. Carrol Nalsh, Fred Kohler, and Larry Crabbe, popular portrayers of gangster types, submit virile studies of brutality. The firm is in- teresting, for the appearance in minor roles of Mae Busch and Evelyn Brent, favourites of the silent picture days. Guy Bates Post (well known in Australia) is also in the cast. (Cameo and Haymarket-Clvic Theatres.)
"PARTNERS OF THE
As if he did not have enough to do in dealing with local desperadoes, led by an ex convict seeking revenge against him, Hopalong Cassidy Is obliged in Paramount's "Partners of the Plains" to tackle something equally harassing In the haughty attitude of Lorna Drake, the snobbish English woman, who owns the controlling interest in the ranch of which Cassidy is foreman. Piqued at his casual recognition of her status-and smarting under his attitude to her advances-she decides to tame him. Rescued by him from a burning log cabin, she finally admits that man is the master in westerns. For all the intrusion of the social element in "Partners of the Plains," there Is plenty of the gun-play and thrill always associated with the mild-mannered Cassidy. Although there is more than a hint of old-fashioned stage melodrama in the plot, it provides enough humour to make a good comedy. Gwen Gaze is an attractive, even if a vehemently spiteful Lorna Drake. She succeeds in making her part a personality. (Cameo and Haymarket-Civlc Theatres.)
"THAT'S MY STORY."
One of those exaggerated narratives of news- paper rivalry, Unlversal's "That's My Story" Is redeemed by a good cast, and the character- istic humour of the English comedian, Hubert Mundin, who has not been seen enough on the screen of late. As a "cuckoo" racehorse owner, awaiting the attention of a psychiatrist in a country gaol, he gives an outstanding comedy performance. Lodged In the same cell with him is the greenest cub reporter the screen has seen. Assigned to obtain an interview with a cabaret singer charged with murder, the reporter is hoaxed into believing he is talking to her when he meets In a room across the gaol yard a girl reporter from a rival newspaper. William Lundigan is the cub reporter, who learns early what a "lucky break" means. Claudia Morgan (daughter of Ralph Morgan, who takes the part of a city editor), is the young lady who wins the heart of the boy whom she makes a public laughing stock by her tactics. (Capitol Theatre.)
"EVERYBODY'S DOING IT."
Cecil Kellaway plays the main supporting role (that of a hard-boiled but dithering busi- ness man) in R.K.O. Radio's "Everybody's Doing It," a very erratic film, which mixes comedy, farce, and slapstick in a most confus- ing, not to say distressing, manner. The story of a commecial artist who invests a successful nation-wide puzzle contest, only to become in- volved with racketeers, the picture is de- cidedly patchy and only spasmodically amus- ing. It is to be hoped that the American film career of such a fine cr nedlan as Cecil Kell- away will not be jeopardised by insisting that he appears in many more such inane produc- tions. Preston Foster and the capable Sally Eilers head the cast, with Guinn Williams, Richard Lane, and Arthur Lake doing their best to cover up the deficiencies of the narra- tive. Even the craziest of films must have some coherency and definite direction. This has scarcely any at all. (Century Theatre.)
"WOMEN ARE LIKE THAT."
A clever couple whose marriage is almost wrecked by the husband's jealousy of his wife's ability to save him in a financial crisis, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Landin both have a flair for the advertising business. But the hus oand's superiority complex gets n jolt every time his wife succeeds in clenching the deal he falls to close. In Warner Bros.' smart comedy romance, "Women Are Like That," the situation is presented with suavity and considerable humour. There are some shrewd angles to the story, as well as psychology in the characterisation.
In a polished and well-mounted produc- tion, Kay Francis gives a clever Interpreta- tion of Claire Landln. Pat O'Brien is the rug- ged, obstinate, and hard-working husband, who learns something more than he bargained for from the woman's attitude to business. Thur- stan Hall Is delightful and never objection- able as a gayt-old roue. .Melville Cooper is also in the cast (Regent Theatre.)