More beauty of face and form was visible one night last week in Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, Calif, than in any other building in the world. Wit too was there but less abundantly. Rogue Song was having its world premiere.*
Days ahead it was impossible to obtain tickets at the $5 box-office price. Hours ahead a crowd ready, and willing to be come popeyed, collected at the flood lighted theatre entrance. By 9 p. m. those on the curb and those in boxes had seen Marion Davies (white satin and ermine), Lila Lee (green velvet and chin chilla), Billie Dove (satin, orchids, ermines) pass through the entirely fake Chinese portals of the Fox-owned cinepalace. At 10 p. m. the picture began.
It was a good picture, quite certain to bring its makers (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer ) substantial profits. It was notable because the 100% technicolor (see col. 3) was an improvement on previous color films. Too, it fills any huge auditorium with much the best voice yet known to cinemaddicts, the voice of Grand Opera Baritone Lawrence Tibbett. Also, it gives the voice a volume never before transmitted through the microphone except in the case of the noises emitted by Al (Sonny Boy) Jolson.
The plot provides a noble red-dressed bandit, vaguely Russian, whose sister is unaccountably ruined by a prince. Bandit murders prince, drags princess of whom he is heavily enamoured through the mountrains. This princess is a blonde new to pictures named Catherine Dale Owen, whose contribution is an unnecessarily sour look while being sung to. Best shot: Tibbett, after he is captured, bellowing a song while floggers flay his naked torso in the presence of the princess.
The story being operatically artificial, Director Lionel Barrymore was entitled to use scenery both beautiful and absurd. But he need not have made the tale of love and hate so limp. Passion never touches the audience, which is delighted whenever Comedians Laurel & Hardy and buttocks of the horses in their care intervene to provide raucous merriment. By the success of this humor Director Barrymore reveals his failure in the main chance. And Tibbett can never be called the singing Douglas Fairbanks until his way with both horses and women is at least the equal of his attendant clowns.
Tibbett. His father was sheriff of Kern County, Calif, at the time of the oil boom. Lawrence, born in 1896, found out in the Manual Arts College of Los Angeles that he could sing. He studied with Frank La Forge in Manhattan, served in the Navy, married, got a job with the Metropolitan Opera Company. One night in 1925 an odd thing happened to him. He was sitting in his dressing room after the second act of Verdi's Falstaffhis aria, "E sogno," had ended the act. He heard the house applauding but thought they wanted the FalstaffAntonio Scotti. The call boy said it was for him and as he hurried back he could hear them shouting his name. For the first time a U. S. singer, relatively obscure, had brought down the Metropolitan. After that, Baritone Tibbett was a public personage.