"HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS."
The humour in Mr. F. W. Thring's latest production, "His Royal Highness," is of a rudimentary sort. People with simple minds and undeveloped tastes may enjoy the film, but others are likely to find it a colossal bore. The whole of its appeal depends on George Wallace, who is on the screen almost from the first moment till the last. He wanders to and fro, falls on to his head, and ex- temporises, exactly as though he were doing a variety turn. The story, which tells of a Melbourne man who dreams he becomes king of a mythical country, is a mere frame- work for Mr. Wallace's antics. As to the matter of Mr. Thring's direction, the kindest thing one can say is that he is some years behind the times, when compared with Eng- lish and American standards. It is irritating to think that a film with such crude characters in it is to be shown abroad as a representa- tive Australian production. The supporting cast includes several actors who have ap- peared on the J. C. Williamson stage—notably John Fernside, John Ralston, Rowena Ronald, and Byrl Walkley. Even Miss Walkley's one really attractive song has been spoiled by the presence of Mr. Wallace, grimacing inanely beside her while she sings. "His Royal High- ness," and Efftee film, was screened on Sat- urday at the Regent Theatre.
"AFTER OFFICE HOURS."
John Van Druten's stage play "London Wall" was one of the successes of last year's theatrical season in the West End. Now "London Wall" comes to the screen, under the new title of "After Office Hours." The film version is a brilliant transcription, which not only preserves all the qualities of Auriol Lee's production at the Duke of York's Theatre, but even improves upon its original. As a rule, when film producers set out to expand the few fixed scenes of a stage play by scattering the action over a wide field, they succeed only in being discursive. In "After Office Hours," however, additional settings and subsidiary action have been grafted on to the one theatrical background (a solicitor's office), with such superb skill that the dramatic in- tensity of the action has been increased, rather than lessened. Anyone who knows London will be delighted by the views of the Mansion House and the City, of buses and tube-trains and escalators, of crowds hurry- ing to work, which are sprinkled through the film. Every detail is true to London life— a pleasant change after Hollywood's idea of London, which succeeds more often in being amusing than in being convincing. The American attitude finds momentary reflection in the two quaint tourists with whom "After Office Hours" opens. (Presumably the director has introducted them in order to explain to people other than residents of London the origin of the place-name, London Wall.) These two peer through an iron grille at the rem- nant of old Roman wall which survives in the City; read diligently from a guide-book, and then go hurriedly off, because they have still to see the Tower of London and Madame Tussaud's during the course of the day. John Van Druten's characters, too, are remarkably true to English types. They are a cross- section of business people who pursue their drab round, all keenly individual, but all sharing a tradition of reserve in thought and behaviour. In the production at the Duke of York's Marie Ney played a leading part, as Blanche Janus, a woman who desperately keeps her hold of an unenthusiastic fiance, because marriage is her only escape from a life of clerical drudgery. On the screen, the role is given splendid poignancy, especially in the episodes where this tired, repressed woman finds herself deserted in the most cowardly way, after eight years of faithful waiting. The underlying theme of the whole play is the dependence of girls with dull, un- derpaid office positions on men, if they are to add any significance or Interest to their lives. Each of the girls in Mr. Walker's office reacts to the situation in a different way. Miss Jason waits drearily for marriage. Another girl conducts a series of flirtations. Another falls in love with a married man, and obtains an engagement ring only when his wife has divorced him. Another allows one of her employers to take her out, until she realises the true nature of his attentions; and then accepts the boyish devotion of a clerk in a neighbouring office. All this sounds heavy and dreary, as coldly summarised in print, but the author has developed the characters with such wonderfully penetrating psychology, and has overlaid the tragic basis with such a glittering web of humour, that the fascination of the story never wanes for a moment. The acting is particularly force- ful and sincere. Frank Lawton and Heather Angel retain the parts they played in the original production. Altogether, "After Office Hours," which was screened on Saturday at the Haymarket Theatre, is a noteworthy pro-
duct of present-day enterprise in the English
Had it appeared on the scene a little earlier, "Good-night, Vienna" would have seemed an outstanding, even a brilliant, film. It is still decidedly not without charm, but by contrast with other English productions like "Sunshine Susie" and "The Indiscre- tions of Eve," it seems rather slow-moving and conventional. The theme of the Conti- nental aristocrat, young and handsome, who must marry a lady of his own sphere and desert the little florist he adores, has been exploited already in hundreds of films and plays. Still the details of this particular version have been set forth with such grace and polish that the romance, so typically English in its mildly luscious sentiment, never fades away into boredom. There is always something one can find to admire. Some- times it is the thoroughgoing picturesqueness with which Mr. Wilcox has recreated the sartorial fashions of 1914. Sometimes it is the astistry of a setting, such as that of the beer-garden with its blossom-laden trees; or
that of the magnificent interior of Schonbrunn Palace, richly painted as to its ceiling. Some- times it is the droll humour of Jack Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan is a master in the type of
jollity peculiar to musical comedy. From the thinnest material he can weave two or three minutes of quite passable fun. The incident of the waiter and the eggs in "Good-night, Vienna" gives an example in point. Arrived at a fashionable restaurant with only a few pfennigs in his pocket, Mr. Buchanan asks to see the menu, and discovers that every- thing is too expensive. In desperation he orders an egg. The waiter dissolves into a vociferous titter. On the question of chicken or fish or sorbet, the man refuses to move a muscle of
his face; but every mention of eggs brings back the painful spasms of mirth. The acting is all highly competent; and occasion- ally (apart from Mr. Buchanan's activities) reaches a passage or two of really penetrating character-study. Muriel Aked, as usual, makes a perfect joy of her minor part. As the heroine Anna Neagle seems to owe much to the director and the camera-man, in that they have dwelt on her blonde beauty and masked the absence of true emotional quality in her portrayal. She and Mr. Buchanan both sing acceptably the rather colourless music that has been allotted to them. The backgrounds, beautiful as they are, are the settings that have been sanctioned by con- vention. There is no attempt to evoke the authentic Viennese location. Everything moves quite frankly on a plane of fantastic unreality. The fantasy is in rather more serious vein than it was in "Sunshine Susie" or "The Indiscretions of Eve"—that is all. "Goodnight, Vienna" was screened on Saturday at the Mayfair Theatre.
"THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP."
It is the distinction of the acting and direction, rather than any particular signifi- cance in the story, which makes "The Devil and the Deep" an absorbing film. Plot and dialogue have been provided by Benn Levy, the author of "Mrs. Moonlight," now enjoy- ing a successful season in Sydney at the Savoy Theatre. The basic materials of "The Devil and the Deep" are of the most conventional sort. They set forth the eternal triangle at its most melodramatic, with the husband as an unusually repulsive villain; the lover as a handsome hero; and the wife as a colourless, insignificant heroine. But Mr. Levy has clothed this antique situation with such polished, flexible dialogue that it ceases to be crude and musty. The most Interesting feature of all about the film is that it brings to the American screen for the first time the distinguished English actor, Charles Laughton. He gives one of the most spectacular studies of char- acter that have been seen In a picture theatre for some time. With remarkable force and sureness he suggests the germ of insanity that lurks in the husband's brain, and Its gradual development into frenzy. The director of the film has helped him—especially in interposing "close-ups" which dwell on the strange gleam in the eyes—but the greater part of the effect is Mr. Laughton's independent creation. Tallulah Bankhead plays the role of the wife. It is an exceptionally dreary part, which gives her scope for little but trailing about with a sad, detached air, as though quite remote from the affairs of gods and men, and showing a marked facial re- semblance to Greta Garbo. Nevertheless, within these sombre bounds, Miss Bankhead makes the most of every word that is allotted to her. Gary Cooper as the lover is splendidly quiet in manner. His acting has gained surprisingly in poise since he launched forth, in a strong American accent, on his first talking film, "The Virginian." In the details of its production, "The Devil and the Deep" shows bursts of artistry akin to that which made the best of the Russian silent films so impressive. The same technique was observable earlier in the present year in the first half of Josef von Sternberg's "Shanghai Express." "The Devil and the Deep," a Para- mount film, was screened on Wednesday at
the Prince Edward Theatre.