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Phillips (Phillip Raymond) Holmes was a sophomore at Princeton in 1928 when Director Frank Tuttle, using the campus as a setting for Varsity, selected him for a small part. Previously he had attended seven preparatory schools, played a girl lead in a Princeton Triangle Club show (Napoleon Passes) with a flair which he might have inherited from his father, Actor Taylor Holmes. His faintly Barry-morose profile, wavy hair and controlled demeanor in the presence of a camera caused a demand for his services after Varsity. Friendship with Director Edmund Goulding helped him along. Not yet an adult actor, he intelligently avoids the boisterous tricks favored by most juveniles, but substitutes only perplexed inscrutability.
Huckleberry Finn (Paramount) is not so good a picture as Tom Sawyer was. Instead of letting John Cromwell, who directed Tom Sawyer, make the sequel, Paramount gave the job to Norman Taurog, who made Skippy. The cast is the same—Junior Durkin for Huckleberry Finn, Jackie Coogan for Tom Sawyer, Jackie Searl for Sid Sawyer, Mitzi Green (in a blonde wig) for Becky Thatcher. Director Taurog, while he retains many of the happiest Twain inventions, gives them a less sharply human inflection—almost as though he had been afraid that Mark Twain's conception of his own characters might seem, to contemporary audiences, a trifle quaint.
Huck is disgruntled at his best friend's interest in Becky Thatcher, discomfited when his disreputable father kidnaps and keeps him prisoner in a deserted shack. After his escape, Huck and Tom set off down the river on their raft. They rescue the two gamblers who have been thrown off a river boat and admire, for a time, the gamblers' methods of pretending to be the Duke of Bilgewater and his friend, the King. In the picture, the gamblers seem less engaging than they should be. Heavier thar the Twain touch is the one which the cinema lays upon the story. A few ill-advised incidents have comic-strip characteristics—a dog lapping up food which Tom Sawyer has unwisely placed on the floor, Huck jabbing the Duke of Bilgewater's rear with a pointed knife, Tom throwing apples at the King.
Traveling Husbands (RKO Radio). The traveling salesman, hero of innumerable smoking room stories, has been neglected in all other forms of fiction. This picture shows five travelling salesmen engaged in poker games, business enterprises, fly-by-night hospitalities which reach their climax when one of the salesmen is shot by a girl (Evelyn Brent) who is not the one he has been trying to seduce. Authentic in outline, and environment, Traveling Husbands gains little from the plot that is meant to make it exciting. Its best moments are those in which a sarcastic Hebrew lingerie merchant (Hugh Herbert) gurgles his impudent philosophy. Of his "prospects" he remarks: "They all look alike in the Turkish bath." Pathetically eager to make merry, he drapes himself in the furs and chiffons of his sample case, telephones to his wife,. in the manner of legendary traveling salesmen, with an amorous lady on his lap.