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A TRIBUTE TO THE GROUND-BREAKING FILMS OF THE
Hello, fellow movie buffs. This page is our tribute to the ground-breaking work of filmakers of the 1920's and 1930's. We will offer our views and reviews of selected films from those eras, and at the same time give you the opportunity to tell us what you think. Take a second to check out our inks section.
We are graduate students just about ready to be unleashed upon the world. Since we are in our final year, we have some time to kill. We figured it would be fun to give this home page a try.
First, it should be emphasized that we are aiming for quality, rather than quantity. For any given week, we may review no more than one or two movies, but we will try to make each review as detailed and informative as possible. In addition to our discussion of a particular film's content, we will try to provide our readers with a list of credits, hypertext links to other databases, and some background information about stars, directors, production, etc., where possible. Each of us will give his own review and separately rate the movie, using one to five film clip icons. The rating system will be as follows:
Completely lacking in merit -- bad acting, writing, cinematography, etc.
Poor. One or two redeeming qualities, but inferior overall.
Average. Not outstanding in most respects, but worth a viewing.
Good. Solid acting, writing, cinematography, etc. Superior in many respects.
Excellent. A true classic. Superior acting, writing, cinematography, etc. Few, if any, flaws.
Gloria Swanson . . .Geraldine Trent................ ................Studio . . . . Nu-Art Films
Ben Lyon . . . . Tony Blake ............................... ............Director . . . . Leo McCarey
Arthur Lake. . . . Buster Collins ................ .....................Screenplay . . . . Lew Brown,
Barbara Kent. . . . Joan Trent ...................... ........................Buddy DeSylva & Ray Henderson
Monroe Owsley. . . . Jim Woodward ........................... ..Photographed by Ray June and
Maude Eburne . . . . Aunt Kate...................... .......................Gregg Toland
Henry Kolker . . . . Mr. Woodward ............. ................Edited by Hal C. Kern
Nella Walker. . . . Mrs. Woodward........................ ......Music by Alfred Newman
Running Time: 92 minutes.
.......Indiscreet is the story of love and loss in the Trent family. Jerry has dated Jim Woodard (Owsley), and she knows what kind of guy he is. However, Joan (Kent), Jerry's sister, has no idea that Jim is a philanderer who'll promise a woman his heart while his hands are exploring other territory. When Jerry learns that Jim has promised to marry Joan, she dearly wishes to warn Joan about what kind of guy Jim is. The problem is that she is certain that if she tells Joan of her past relationship with Jim it will devastate her. What is one to do? In the end she forces Jim, while Joan looks on, to choose which Trent he'd like to spend the rest of his life with. Jerry has no intention of going back to Jim, she just wants him to choose her over Joan so that Joan can be free from Jim. Who will Jim choose? You'll have to watch the movie to find that out.
.......I didn't much care for Indiscreet. There are three major problems with the film: (1) the writing is bad; (2) the direction is bad; and (3) most of the acting is bad. Besides that, Indiscreet is a pretty good film.
.......There are lots of problems with the writing; however, dialogue is not one of them. For the most part, the dialogue is fairly witty and mostly believable. The situations in which the writer puts these characters are the problem. Is it really better to force a showdown in which a loved one will get hurt either way rather than simply being honest with that loved one from the beginning? It's an easy call, and it's silly to believe that a sane, decent person would choose this convoluted scheme rather than just being honest up front. However, within the framework of the movie, it's not surprising that such shallow, do-nothings would actually fail have a problem with this kind of behavior. As for myself, if that's sisterly love, I'd rather be an orphan.
.......It is true that a director is often given little to work with. However, great directors can make even the most rediculous material at least somewhat appealing. (Hitchcock did it many times.) Sadly, such is not the case with Indiscreet. While we watch this silly melodrama unfold, we also see our actors being posed in the most rediculous positions. For the most part, the film looks like a wax museum come to life. Even the party scenes look stilted and boring. Two hundred peolple quietly sit by so that the director can have half a dozen get their lines out. Give me Twister and Root Beer anyday over the parties in Indiscreet.
.......As if the above wasn't bad enough, we are forced to watch actors mechanically deliver the diologue. In all honesty I must say that Owsley and Lyon did a passable job. However, Lake and Kent completely butchered their characters. The viewer can almost see Kent going over the lines in her head as she delivers them, sighing in relief that she fiinally gets them out. The good news is that Kent's character is really not very important as the film was written. Joan's primary function was to protest that she was no longer a little girl. Sadly, Lake's Buster played a larger role in the overly complex scheme to tear Joan away from Jim. At one point Buster is to get get drunk. The big problem is that Lake slurs his lines so badly throughout that one can hardly tell he's drunk at all.
.......The real tragedy of the film is that Gloria Swanson's considerable talents are lost in this hapless project. Swanson shows off her wonderful comedic timing while the entire project falls down around her. Her ever-so-slightly smug Jerry is truly a funny character notwithstanding her shallowness due to the poor writing. Sadly, Swanson is just about the only interesting thing about this film. My rating:--
.......Imagine a very, very bad short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Remove every redeeming trace of aesthetic value, throw in some lousy singing, and you'll get some idea of what Indiscreet is like. Jerry (Gloria Swanson), the central character in this treacle-filled, seriocomic disaster, bears the same name as the heroine of The Divorcee, one of our previously-reviewed films. Unfortunately, the similarities between the two movies more or less end there. Whereas The Divorcee presents the viewer with a handful of characters who feel genuine anguish over the emptiness of their times, Indiscreet is filled with narcissistic nincompoops who revel in such emptiness, just so long as the champagne continues to flow at their oh-so-fashionable soirees.
.......In all fairness, the first ten minutes or so of Indiscreet are very solid. After returning home from a party on New Year's Eve (apparently the most popular holiday of 1930's cinema), Jerry works diligently to push her inconstant lover Jim Woodard (Owsley) out of her apartment and out of her life. As the two engage in a bit of razor-sharp badinage, Swanson displays her greatest asset as a comedic actress, i.e., her sense of timing. Over and over again, she delivers her incisive barbs at just the right moment, usually emphasizing her rejection of Jim by holding out his tophat to him. Indeed, throughout the painful remainder of the film, Swanson's acting is never really suspect, which leads me to a couple of conclusions. First, that Swanson's overall lack of success in the "talkies" certainly cannot be attributed to a dearth of talent, and, second, that it almost certainly can be attributed to a dearth of quality vehicles. I will, however, stick to my guns about Swanson's inability to sing -- neither she nor Kent, who plays the part of her sister, can carry a tune in a champagne bucket.
.......If someone were to ask me what one thing makes Indiscreet such a bad movie, I could only reply "everything." Bad acting (other than Swanson's), bad direction, bad writing, bad casting, you name it. The successful opening does little in way of mitigation, and perhaps worsens the overall effect through embarrassing contrast. In its "serious" or "dramatic" moments, it covers the viewer with melodrama thick enough to suffocate Charles Dickens. In the vast majority of its "light" or "comedic" moments, it is simply bad farce, much like an episode of I Love Lucy might be if there was absolutely no chemistry between any of the characters. The most interesting parts of the film for me? (1) Trying to decide whether or not we actually see a flash of Swanson's naked breast in the shower scene. (2) Trying to figure out what kind of pins, nets, and/or dippity-do Swanson uses to make three feet of hair look like no more than a foot or so. My rating--
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), Intermezzo (1936), Algiers (1938)
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