It's Tough to be Famous (Warner). No sooner had the stage turned to the Lindbergh saga for a new pattern (Happy Landing, TIME, April 4) than the screen did likewise. Perhaps the screen turned first, for It's Tough to be Famous was withheld from the public for several weeks because of the Lindbergh kidnapping. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., captain of a disabled submarine, having saved the members of his crew is prepared to stay submerged and die. Rescuers pry him off the bottom of the sea and into a more embarrassing if less dangerous predicament. He is welcomed ashore in a paper blizzard. His roommate grabs his pajamas for a souvenir. A manager (Walter Catlett) makes him read effusive speeches to women's banquets. He has to listen to a song called "Scotty Boy" written about himself. As in the case of Lindbergh, there seems to be an estrangement between the hero and his mother, in this case caused by her excessive enthusiasm for his valor.
When, momentarily escaping his oppressive public, he pays a late call on his fianceée (Mary Brian), a tabloid reporter informs him that the call is capable of turning into scandal. Even when married, Scotty Boy has a hard time. He abuses a nosey reporter and has to go on a good-will tour to make up for it. He has a misunderstanding with his wife when she is tricked into signing a cheap article about him. At the end of the picture there is a letdown, as though the authors (Mary McCall Jr. and Robert Lord) did not know how to finish it. But the letdown is intentional. It leads to one of the best shots in the picture when Scotty Boy and his wife, driving home after a reconciliation, absentmindedly save an old farmer from being run over by an express train.
The Misleading Lady (Paramount) is an old-fashioned little absurdity which gives Claudette Colbert a chance to be cunningly indignant. She wriggles, squeals, wears a smudge of charcoal on her cheek and cries, "Let me go, let me go," or "I would like to kill you!" This is because she has trifled with the affections of a morose young traveler (Edmund Lowe) just returned from sojourning with aborigines. He has paid her back by abducting her to his shooting lodge and attaching her to a leash intended for pet bears.
A cinema shooting lodge is a curious type of dwelling. Its architecture seems adapted to situation-comedy rather than to outdoor sport, and it almost always contains a murderer, a lunatic, a butler or a ghost. This time the lunatic is Stuart Erwin. He thinks that he is Napoleon and his lugubrious schizophrenia prompts him to describe Claudette Colbert as "La Duchesse" and to murmur 'Waterloo!" with the pensive intonations of a hoot-owl. His resourceful guards recapture him by singing "La Marseillaise." Meanwhile Claudette Colbert's squeals grow less indignant.
Freaks (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). Director Tod Browning, one of the few truly individual directors in the U. S., is a specialist in horror. He is fond of anything that happens underground or in the dark, especially a murder. He prefers lovers who are physically deformed. He directed the late Lon Chaney in most of Chaney's best pictures. Before that he was a spieler for a sideshow, travelled twice around the world with a carnival in which he acted in blackface. Director Browning must have enjoyed making Freaks. It is one of the most macabre pictures ever filmed and it doubtless contains more misfits of humanity than were ever gathered together in the combined shows of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey (see p. 18). A man without legs walks on his hands. A woman without hands eats with her feet. A Negro with no limbs at all lights a cigaret with his teeth. Siamese twins have courtships.
Through this grotesque panorama weaves a story telling how a beautiful trapeze artist (Olga Baclanova) came to be a freak who resembles a chicken. A midget (Harry Earle, who looks like a cartoon of Herbert Hoover) has a misguided passion for Baclanova. When she learns that he is rich, she tries to poison him. Swift & certain is the revenge of the Freaks, their faces sullen masks as they move silently through the underbrush, but you are not told how they make of Baclanova the legless, drivelling idiot that you see in the end. The featured players. Leila Hyams and Wallace Ford, have unimportant roles.
Scarface (United Artists—Howard Hughes) is a grisly, exciting gangster picture, based in part upon the career of Alphonse ("Scarface," "Snorkey") Capone. Its vicious hero, one Tony (Paul Muni), ingeniously wins the affection of a public enemy named Lovo (Osgood Perkins) by murdering his own superior. He then embarks upon a career of informal executions, becoming invaluable to Lovo and attractive to Lovo's Poppy (Karen Morley). Presently dissension occurs between Tony and Lovo. Tony wipes out Lovo and leaves for Florida with Poppy.
When he comes back, he has trouble with his sister (Ann Dvorak). Tony suspects someone of ruining her, immediately shoots him. The police trace Tony to his lair. Instead of shooting him, they shoot his sister. Tony survives just long enough to prove himself a coward. His riddled corpse is last seen in a gutter.
Of the large private fortune with which, four years ago, he started cinemanufacture, Howard Hughes now has less. Whether he will be able to recoup on this picture depends in part on whether he can convince censorship boards in the seven States* that have them that he has a right to show it. The Hays organization warned Howard Hughes not to make Scarface. When the original version was completed six months ago, the Hays organization demanded several changes, notably a conclusion in which Tony was captured, tried, convicted, hung. When the changes had been made and the picture retitled The Shame of a Nation, the New York State censors still rejected it. Disgusted, Howard Hughes last week decided to release Scarface nationally in almost its original form, though with a sententious foreword denouncing gangsters. In New York and other States where censors rejected it, he planned to argue his rights in court.
Scarface contains re-enactments of famed gangster crimes like the St. Valentine's Day massacre in Chicago, the hospital shooting of Jack ("Legs") Diamond, the siege of Francis ("Two-Gun") Crowley. Good shot: Tony's sister, when he is overcome by remorse for having killed the man she loves, begging him to defend himself from the police.
*New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Kansas, Maryland. Florida.