The Key (Warner). Ireland, in the cinema, is usually represented by 1) "Wearing of the Green" played by bagpipes; or 2) Marion Davies saying "acushla." The Key is, therefore, an Irish experiment. Adapted from the London play by R. Gore Brown and J. L. Hardy, with an imported cast including J. M. Kerrigan, once of the Abbey Players, it tries hard to use the Dublin riots of 1920 as authentic background for a semi-serious melodrama.
Captain Andrew Kerr (Colin Clive) is a British officer stationed at Dublin. His friend Captain Tennant (William Powell), who has had an affair with Mrs. Kerr (Edna Best) before her marriage, attempts to revive it when they meet again. Captain Kerr finds out about this the evening he gets back from capturing Sinn Fein Leader Pedar Conlan. Dejected, he stumps out of his house and into a Sinn Fein ambush which enables Tennant to make a handsome gesture. He forges an order for the release of Conlan, obtains the release of Captain Kerr in exchange, lights a cigaret as he gets into a lorry to go to jail for three years.
The obvious fault in The Key as occasional drama is that the incidents which it relates could have occurred just as well in Nicaragua or Cincinnati. Nonetheless, Dublin decorations do not damage a good melodrama. The Key is well constructed and acted with proper enthusiasm. Under Director Michael Curtiz, who took pains to get all the possible wear out of his sets, Edna Best does a commendable job in her first important cinema role. Good shot: a genial Irish bartender advising Captain Kerr to leave by the back door where he knows an ambush is in wait.
Little Man, What Now (Universal). Hans Pinneberg (Douglass Montgomery) is a bookkeeper in the German town of Ducherow, worried about losing his job and the pregnancy of his sweetheart Lammchen (Margaret Sulla van). Marriage solves one problem and augments the other. Pinneberg's employer has been planning to marry his hireling to his daughter; when he learns his clerk has already taken a wife, he discharges Pinneberg. Lammchen and her husband go to Berlin to live with Pinneberg's hard-boiled mother whose friend Jachman helps the young man get a job selling clothes in a department store. Lammchen is content to cook for Frau Pinneberg's noisy visitors but young Pinneberg feels ashamed when he finds that he is being pensioned by his mother's pimp. Presently the two young Pinnebergs are established in an attic over a stable. By the time Pinneberg has lost his job in the store and been manhandled by police in a political riot, he goes home to find that he has finally acquired a son, for whom there seems to be as little room in the world as for his father.
At this point Director Frank Borzage really ended his treatment of Little Man, What Now. In a final, purely conventional, sequence, one of Pinneberg's friends is heard thumping up the ladder to the attic to announce that he has found Pinneberg a good job in Amsterdam.