The Dummy (Paramount). Writers of stones for boys succeed only when they make up the kind of stories that boys would make up if they could make up stories. Somehow the adventures of one Mickey Bennett when he is sent to be kidnaped so as to enable a detective, trailing him, to find another kid kidnaped by the same gang, has the right flavor in spite of its slow movement and the extraordinary stupidity of the criminals. Hero Bennett, 12, uses to advantage certain metallic mots by Harriet Ford and the late Harvey O'Higgins. "You win the ten thousand dollars reward. What will you do with it?" . . . "I'll count it." Best shot: the kidnapers in Grand Central Station, Manhattan.
The Letter (Paramount). None of the cinema's long succession of women testifying in their own defense has told as convincingly as Jeanne Eagels how she fired the shot that saved her virtue. None has begun her testimony with a more positive knowledge of her guilt fixed in the minds of the audience, which has seen her a minute before, transformed with fury, committing the actual murder. Rather an effective contralto phonograph record than a moving picture, the film follows the construction of Somerset Maugham's short story, a successful legitimate play last year, about the temptations of white people in Singapore. Best shot: A battle between a mongoose and a cobra. (Originally released by Ufa as a short feature this interjection was bought by Paramount and spliced into the plot for atmosphere.)
Jeanne Eagels played as Camille, Little
Lord Fauntleroy, and a wild west show-girl before she was 16. She made her reputation when she took Elsie Ferguson's place in Outcast. She has earned more than $2,000,000 by acting but has not got it now. Famed for her Temperament, her 30 pedigreed Schnauzer dogs, her dramatic manner in conversation, and the way her eyes change color, she said at the time of her divorce from Ted Coy, onetime Yale footballer: "My love affairs, my servants, and the food I eat are not public property." When the Actors' Equity Association accused her of being a contract-breaker she pointed to the fact that she had missed only 18 performances in five years of Rain. She seems smaller off the screen than on.
Speakeasy (Fox) is a hasty commercial attempt to record the sounds of a great citya fight at Madison Square Garden, a crowd at the racetrack, trains in the Grand Central Station, Manhattan traffic. To provide a framework for the noise a girl reporter risks worse than death in interviewing a pug who takes his rubdown before his shower, chats happily with his trainer 30 seconds after being knocked down three times and finally counted out in the ring, and who looks as though he wore a size 13 collar. Other inaccuracies mark a picture which as a story seems too disjointed to entertain rustics and as reporting, too slipshod to amuse metropolites. Best shot: Two old men in a corner of a speakeasy.