New Pictures: Sep. 2, 1929

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The Dance of Life (Paramount). When Arthur Hopkins and George Manker Waiters wrote the play Burlesque, they somehow extracted, the maximum amount of sentimentality from a story which was even then not altogether new but which became for the first time extraordinarily successful. How a loyal dancing girl forced her alcoholic, small-time husband into a big part, how she stuck to him when good luck made him forget her, how she bucked him up in failure, was immediately used with variations as a theme for so many pictures that it was hard to believe that Paramount's delayed production of the original, disguised under a title from Sexpert Havelock Ellis, would seem more than, a paraphrase of its own imitations. The Dance of Life is too long and overdetailed; it is handicapped with a tedious theme-song. Its virtues are faithfulness to its background, fairly legitimate sentiment, expert acting by the same people who played Burlesque on the stage except Nancy Carroll who, instead of Barbara Stanwyck, plays Bonnie.

Hallelujah (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). Before the end of this picture you get the idea that King Vidor, who wrote and directed it, does not know much about Negroes but that he has guessed and reasoned out a lot. His story, simple yet sophisticated, does not go as deep into the way a black man's mind works as, for instance, Eugene O'Neill went in Emperor Jones. It is a white man's comment on the relationship between sex and religion, a comment in which sympathy and emotion replace the irony so easy to this kind of writing. After shooting his brother in an argument about a crap game, a Negro named Zeke turns preacher and converts the girl, Chick, who got him in the game. She beats up his rival with a poker, saying. "Ain't no one goin' to stand in my path to glory." This is the best line in Hallelujah, but Zeke (Daniel L. Haynes) has other good ones in the sermon in which, dressed as a locomotive engineer, he describes the cannonball express to hell. Sometimes local color dams up the story, but mostly, in spite of the temptation of spirituals, it is under control. Vidor's skill as a picturemaker is enough alone to make Hallelujah one of the best films of the year. Best actress : brown-yellow Nina Mae McKinney. not yet 18, who became a Manhattan chorus girl at 12, was picked by Vidor from the chorus of Blackbirds. Best tune: "The End of the Road" by Irving Berlin. Most dramatic sequence: Hot Shot (William Fountaine) running through the swamp when Preacher Zeke comes after him to avenge Chick's death.

Called smartest U. S. director, King Vidor grew up in Galveston, Tex., went to Tome School in Maryland. When he left school he wrote short stories, published few, then wrote 51 scenarios, sold the 52nd to a small producer in Texas. He directed himself in the leading role, made little money out of it. Several years later, after marrying Florence Vidor, not then famed as a cinemactress, he got his first good job writing and directing stories for General Film Co. Recently he was divorced by Florence Vidor, married Eleanor Boardman whom he directed in The Crowd.

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