Cinema: The New Pictures: Jan. 26, 1931

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The Bat Whispers (United Artists). This is the first time that a mystery melodrama has been put on a wide screen. It is not a completely successful idea. There are times when the big background gives chances for suspense that an ordinary screen would have lost, as when, with the whole cast assembled in the foreground, the camera does not have to look away from them to show the horrible manifestation that has frightened them. But in scenes involving only one or two people, the big screen makes an ordinary room look like an amphitheatre. Size is the only new thing about The Bat Whispers. It is the same old Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood concerning the lady who has made up her mind not to let phantoms scare her away from a house she has rented. All the devices have been used before and the efforts of Director Roland West, Chester Morris and a good cast to give them distinction are largely wasted. Typical shot: people falling down an airshaft but saved from death by a pile of laundry at the bottom.

Reducing (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). Critics who lament each slapstick comedy Marie Dressier makes as a deterioration of her art, wistfully recalling her work in Anna Christie and Let Us Be Gay, apparently forget that in the two latter plays Miss Dressier had bit-parts and that making a bit-part stand out is easy and not always justifiable. In Reducing, as in her other full-length roles, Miss Dressier works hard and with some skill, but the results are not memorable. She comes from the country as the permanent guest of her sister. Polly Moran, who has grown rich running a city beauty parlor. Both have daughters. One daughter steals the other's sweetheart. Most of the dialog is a wrangle between Misses Dressier and Moran. None of it is very funny. Typical shot: Miss Dressier shoving Miss Moran into a mud bath.

No Limit (Paramount). That able comic, Stuart Erwin, consummate master at playing dimwits, has given first-aid to many a Paramount picture that would have been fearful without him. He saves No Limit, even makes passable entertainment out of it. Clara Bow is the star. She looks ittier than ever but has little to do. An usherette in a movie theatre, she is transported in a fantastic way to Park Avenue and is implicated in a jewel robbery. Harry Green, as manager of the theatre, supplies comedy when Erwin. Bow's bashful sweetheart, is off the set. Best sequences: Bow finding out that her Park Avenue apartment is really the headquarters of a gambling club.

"I wanted to keep Clara out of the papers . . . because one more slam in the papers and Clara is through in pictures. . . ."

Thus, with adroitly modulated venom, Daisy de Boe, onetime secretary to Clara Bow, testified last week when placed on trial by her employer, accused of embezzling $16,000 from a special account on which she was allowed to sign checks. Unable to disprove the embezzlements. Blonde de Boe tried hard to excuse herself and discredit Clara by attributing her own evil to the bad influence of the cinemactress.

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