The Exile (Fairbanks; Universal) is one of those shy wildflowers which occasionally spring up almost unnoticed in the Hollywood hothouse. But because of its forced growth, half the freshness is off the bloom.
The story is a pleasant little fraud. A trumped-up anecdote of King Charles II's gay undernourishment in continental garrets, it is designed chiefly to purvey the Tarzantics of Actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. But The Exile is also Young Doug's first fling as a producer, and he has concealed most of the fraud with both legitimate and handsome cinematic tricks.
The script (which he is said to have written) has a charming, blank-verse hauteur that just possibly may be a bit asininebut the direction saves the day by insisting on a witty, natural reading. Fairbanks has also inflicted an extreme lilt on the rhythm of the filma lilt that would be annoying if it were not necessary to keep the lame plot marching along.
The mock-ups of 17th Century garrets, inns and windmills are engagingly naive, and often drafty enough to send a chill through a steam-heated audience. The camera seems to eye everything with a cavalier detachment, and the sepia film gives the illusion that everything is seen through a blear of centuries.
Few cinemaddicts will stand up to cheer these tender graces, but fewer will want to miss those of a Fairbanks find: a 23-year-old, Tahiti-born "Tyrolean blonde" named Paule Croset. Her performance (as a Dutch farm girl) is as clear as a brook, and audiences may well object that the camera does not linger longer on her cool, inviting beauty.
The Lost Moment (Walter Wanger; Universal-International), a puzzling screen version of Henry James's fine novelette, The Aspern Papers, would doubtlessif it had James himself for a criticbe delicately strangled in the ineluctable tendrils of his famous final manner.
It is, and no doubt of it, a memorable thing to have, at one heave of the pick, dug out the entire psychological mosaic of this perfect, almost, book; and no less memorable, in a filmic way, to have senza cerimonia, as it weresubstituted a pleasant, if rather extended charade. Though the need for the substitution remains obscure.
The Aspern Papers is a most lively tale concerning the adventure of a young publisher who intrudes himself, "on the footing of a lodger," into a dilapidated Venetian palazzo, where lives, with a middle-aged niece, an ancient woman who, ages before, had been mistress of the great poet Jeffrey Aspern, and who is still purported to possess a packet of love letters from him. It is the object of the publisher fellow to possess himself of these billetsan object which eludes him when the middle-aged niece, after her aunt's death, burns the letters because he will not take her with them.