Trader Horn (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). The longest, bitterest journey of Trader Horn ended last week at Hollywood's Chinese Theatre. In 1928, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer sent two actresses, two actors, Director W. S. Van Dyke and some technicians on an eight-month junket into Africa to shoot the most capricious game of all—an idea. Alfred Aloysius Horn, 75, all-talking hero of Ethelreda Lewis' book, was their theme. Jungle hardships were ameliorated by an ice plant, good food-&-drink, comfortable housing. The real difficulties developed when the film arrived back in California. It would not jell; the script was rewritten endlessly. But last week MGM had its reward.
Incomparably the best jungle picture made so far, Trader Horn will stand, where censors do not gut it, high among the pictures of this or any year. It contains a great deal of savagery, with a love story for sweetening. Trader Horn (oldtime Wild West Cinemactor Harry Carey) and his friend Little Peru find a white native goddess (Edwina Booth), daughter of a deceased missionary. She saves them from being roasted upside down. They flee. Eventually Mr. Carey prudently wraps a blanket around naively nude Miss Booth, sends her on to civilization with Peru, then heads off again into the wilderness.
The producers have given Trader Horn a rather terrifying flavor of reality. Lions kill before your eyes. A man is gored by a rhinoceros. Best performance is given by one Mutia Omoolu, a black gunbearer who returned with the troupe from Africa, lived in a hut on the Metro lot, hated Hollywood.
Mr. Omoolu's compatriots in Africa, according to John McClain, the New York Sun's shipnews reporter who press-agented the picture while it was being made, were of a much happier disposition. When rushes of the film were shown on safari, the natives rolled on the ground with laughter, regardless of the nature of the sequence. At Rhino Town, on the White Nile, Pressagent McClain came upon a tribe of natives all naked save that one of them sported a neat, snap-brim brown hat. Removing the hat, Mr. McClain was surprised to find the label: Brooks Bros.,— Madison Ave., New York. And although the film shows many a fierce jungle beast, the troupe spent six weeks at $2,000 a day trying to persuade some crocodiles to snap.*
The Gang Buster (Paramount). Funnyman Jack Oakie, ablest of Paramount's comics, here plays a small-town boy so superstitious that on the thirteenth of every month he wants to stay in bed clutching a rabbit's foot. After long and laughable complications he is seen at the picture's climax entering a racketeer's headquarters armed with a monkey wrench to rescue the beautiful kidnapped daughter of a rich lawyer. There is more fun in The Gang Buster than its plot would indicate. Oakie is good and so is William Boyd as Gangster Mike Slade. Best shot: Wynne Gibson as a gangster's moll sending innocent Oakie out to telephone a rival gunman that Slade is paying off his men.