Sunday, November 28, 2004

NEW MOON (1940)

Many years ago, I watched an Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy operetta, didn’t care for it, and decided I didn't need to see anything else of that ilk, but I finally broke down during TCM's recent festival of musicals and watched this one. Surprisingly, it was painless and even rather entertaining. Eddy is a French duke who has been arrested for "singing seditious ditties" and as punishment is shipped out of France to New Orleans as a bonded servant. MacDonald is a rich lady who, on the same ship as Eddy, mistakes him for an officer and does a little flirting. Coincidentally, her estate manager buys Eddy as a house servant and their relationship, after a rocky start, develops at the same time that Eddy is planning a servant's revolt aboard the ship New Moon. In another wild coincidence, Eddy and his men wind up taking over a ship with McDonald and a bunch of mail-order brides. The ship wrecks on an island and the motley group of ladies and pirates learn to get along, as do Eddy and MacDonald. Eventually, the French attack, but news of the French Revolution gets through just in time to save the day and allow our couple to be happy ever after. The plot is silly, though I enjoyed the echoes of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS in the island sequence, and Eddy is completely unbelievable as a dashing romantic figure, but he sings the famous "Stouthearted Men" quite nicely. MacDonald's "One Kiss" is a standout, as is their duet, "Wanting You," which is shot beautifully in the woods. With the leads being rather bland, it's left to the supporting players to add some spice to the film, which they do. Mary Boland, the nutty countess in THE WOMEN, is good as MacDonald's aunt; also shining in smaller roles are George Zucco, Grant Mitchell, and H.B. Warner. John Miljan is one of Eddy's more lively buddies, and Sara Edwards has a short but funny bit as a gossipy bitch who wants to buy Eddy from MacDonald. [TCM]

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Two Pre-Code Doctors

MEN IN WHITE (1934) has Clark Gable as a promising intern who is torn between continuing to work long hours with his mentor (Jean Hersholt) and spending more time with his socialite finacee (Myrna Loy). Gable may have served as the archetype for many of the movie doctors who came later: he's charming and handsome, and when there's a conflict between him and an older, more established doctor (in this movie, the sinister C. Henry Gordon), the younger doctor is always right. When duty calls and Gable breaks a dinner date, Loy gives him the cold shoulder and Gable finds a night of comfort in the arms of an understanding nurse (Elizabeth Allan). Later, the pregnant and single Allan falls ill, Gable cannot save her, and Loy realizes she must give him up to his career. The film is well directed, especially Allan's hospital bed death scene and Gable's confrontation with Gordon; Gable is quite good, as he usually was in his 30's movies, though it’s a shame that Loy doesn't have more to do. Wallace Ford is a frivolous intern and Otto Kruger is an older doctor whose wife is dying of TB. There's a very nice art deco hospital office that looks like it belongs in an Astaire/Rogers musical. The movie was released just a few months before the Production Code was enforced. Most sources say that the movie runs 80 minutes, but the print that TCM shows is apparently a re-release version, running 75 minutes, with at least one obvious trim; at one point, an intern says, "We should eat, drink, and make merry," and there's a cut to a woman answering a telephone, saying, "This is Mary speaking," but her line has been erased in the TCM print. One bawdy line that made it through is an intern's complaint: "That's the trouble with love--it ruins your sex life." The plight of the pregnant nurse is unclear; we have to guess from the coded language that she's pregnant, and it’s not clear at all what she dies of. [TCM]

THE SIN OF MADELON CLAUDET (1931) isn't strictly speaking a doctor movie (though Jean Hersholt once again plays a doctor), but a melodrama from the well-worn "suffering mother" genre. Helen Hayes is the title character, whom we first see as a young French girl who leaves the countryside for Paris with American Neil Hamilton; he goes back to the States to attend to family business and never returns; Hayes has a baby and tries to get farmer Alan Hale to marry her, but he doesn't want to be burdened with a child. She is befriended by older friend Lewis Stone and spends some time in decent conditions as a kept woman, but it turns out that Stone is a notorious jewel thief and when he's caught, he kills himself and she gets 10 years in jail as an accomplice. When released, she becomes a petty thief and a streetwalker, sending as much money as she can to her child, being raised in a orphanage. Years later, the son (Robert Young) is a successful doctor. Hayes, ill and aged beyond her years, has been keeping track of his progress and when their paths cross, he doesn't recognize her, though he does arrange for her to get medical attention. The story is told as a flashback by Hersholt to Young's fiancee (Karen Morley) who has been behaving like Myrna Loy, but she sees things in a new light and decides to stand by her man, even though Young still doesn't know that kindly old Hayes is his mother. It's a creaky and predictable plot, a variation of which is used in the more popular MADAME X, and its short length and episodic nature work against it, but Hayes is worth seeing. Cliff Edwards and Charles Winninger have small supporting roles, and the underrated child actor Frankie Darro is Hayes' son as a boy. [TCM]

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


I'm not usually impressed with Charles Boyer but he's very good in this underrated spy thriller set in 1937 which uses the Spanish Civil War as its background, though all the action takes place in London. Boyer is a retired concert pianist who has enlisted with the Republicans in Spain against Franco's fascists; his job is to broker a deal with the British coal industry to buy a substantial amount of coal for his side, and to keep it out of the hands of the fascists (embodied here by the always slickly sinister Victor Francen) who need it badly. Upon his arrival in London, he winds up involved with young snobbish socialite Lauren Bacall, who is coincidentally the daughter of a coal company boss. At first, their relationship is rather rocky, but soon she comes to realize the importance of his mission and, impressed with his determination, she helps him to escape police, other spies, and even her own father to fulfill his duty. Bacall was barely 21 and this was only her third film (though it was released before her second film, THE BIG SLEEP); many critics were tough on her, and the performance does seem to be an overly mannered one at first, but we're meant to see the character change and grow, and I think she does a good job, though she doesn't even try to do a British accent. Boyer is just right as an idealistic man into things a little over his head. A wonderful supporting cast includes Katrina Paxinou as a Republican hotel owner who betrays her side quite viciously, Peter Lorre as her accomplice, Ian Wolfe as the slightly wacky inventor of a made-up language called Entrenationo, Wanda Hendrix as a young hotel maid, George Coulouris as a man with an artificial hand who may or may not be a suspicious character, and Dan Seymour as a odd little Hindu man who takes copious notes on the behavior of everyone around him, who also may or may not be sinister. Much of the film has a noirish feel, with most scenes occurring at night and in thick fog. It's a bit long, dragging in the middle, but it's well worth a viewing. [TCM]

Sunday, November 21, 2004


An average "long suffering heroine" melodrama from the heyday of the genre. Kay Francis is a chorus girl with two admirers: an older sugar daddy (John Halliday) and a younger but still well-off man (Gene Raymond). She agrees to marry Raymond and they live in the big house of the movie title. Halliday takes the rejection OK, but years later, when he has only a short time to live, he confronts her and asks her to return to him. She rejects him again, so he pulls out a gun and threatens to kill himself. Francis struggles with him and the gun goes off, killing Halliday. She is found guilty of manslaughter and put away for 20 years. When she gets out, her husband is dead (in WWI) and her grown daughter (Margaret Lindsay) has been told that Francis died in prison. Her mother-in-law agrees to give her a cash settlement to start a new life, but refuses to let her make contact with her daughter. Francis, whom we're told has a gambling problem, meets up with a oceangoing card sharp (Ricardo Cortez) and they pair up to fleece people, eventually getting a job in New York at a speakeasy that is opening up in the old mansion that once belonged to Francis and her husband. When Lindsay shows up and recklessly loses a lot of money, she winds up shooting Cortez. Francis is ready to take the rap, but the speakeasy boss agrees to cover things up as long as she will stay with him in the house on 56th Street forever. She agrees, escaping punishment in a pre-Code plot twist that would have been impossible a year later. The plot and acting are fine, but because the movie is so short (under 70 minutes), the first half is underdeveloped and rushed through. It is mentioned that Raymond and his rich mother were estranged at one time, but nothing is made of it, as though it were a subplot that got cut before release. Similarly, we know that Francis' father was a riverboat gambler but her gambling past is dealt with in basically one line of dialogue. It wasn't clear to me why Francis couldn't explain her way out of the manslaughter charges better--I guess because then the movie would only be 40 minutes long. Stalwart Warners comic player Frank McHugh gets co-star billing, but only has a couple of scenes early on. Francis and Cortez are the reasons to watch this; both are good doing what they do best: for Francis, wearing lovely costumes and suffering; for Cortez, being an attractive slimeball. [TCM]

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Dr. Strangelove gone psychedelic (and a little gay). This is one of those crazy 60's movies that you watch slack-jawed, wondering, what the hell were they thinking? It's set in the near future (1972) and begins as a military plane is flying over Europe carrying two nuclear bombs and a mysterious "McGuffin" box of some very dangerous material (think Doomsday Device by way of the Mickey Spillane noir classic KISS ME DEADLY). With a crash imminent, the pilots must carefully deposit themselves and their deadly cargo via parachutes on a small Greek island. The two men (Colin Blakely and Tom Courtney), clad only in skimpy wet (and increasingly dirty) underpants, scamper about the rocky island trying to contact their NATO superiors while at the same time staying hidden from the populace--the fact that they can't come up with a semi-plausible excuse for their state of undress is ridiculous. Unknown to the pilots, a group of military men, thinking the pilots are dead, move in to reclaim the weapons; they claim to be hotel developers, which allows them to scatter all over the island in their search. They dress up in outrageously tight and colorful tourist garb and are assumed to be gay by some of the villagers, and eventually by Blakely, who doesn't realize that these are the men he's trying to contact. Meanwhile, all the activity causes unwanted attention from real tourists who come to the island by the boatload, including archeologist and half-hearted dominatrix Candice Bergen who carries on a brief fling with soldier Ian Ogilvy. The two bombs are discovered by the military, but the box is found and pried open by a shepherd and his wife who, finding only odd shiny spheres, throw the contents in the ocean (and, by accident, into the island's water supply). In the last few minutes, a coming apocalypse is signaled by the huge numbers of dead fish bobbing in the water, and the heedless islanders and tourists dance away that last moments of their lives, as a voice shrieks over a megaphone, "Pay attention, please!"--a heavy symbolic touch that reminds me of the end of some Spike Lee movies when characters go about yelling, "Wake up!!" Not surprisingly, none of this really comes together, but the costumes and wild frugging of the tourists are fun to watch for a few minutes, as are the underdressed pilots. Bergen is totally wasted, as is the usually dignified Sam Wanamaker as the head military man. Very tough to sit through; recommended only for die-hard fans of 60's cinema. [FMC]

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Two B-Westerns

I watched this out of curiosity about the "singing cowboy" subgenre (in this one, the musical hero is Dick Foran) and because it has Wayne Morris in a supporting role, and I wound up enjoying this much more that I thought I would. The opening is pure bliss, as Dick and his men come riding into town singing about being the Circle Bar Boys and how they're gonna raise a little playful hell. It reminded me of something out of OKLAHOMA! There's only one other major number ("Whisper While You’re Waltzing") and a short song at the very end, so the singing part did not predominate. The film is set in Bitter Creek, a frontier town in New Mexico, which is largely a lawless state. The plot starts out as something out of LADY FOR A DAY, with the bar owner (Irene Franklin) cleaning things up and changing her establishment to a cafe (spelt "cafay" on her temporary sign) because her daughter (Linda Perry), who thinks her mother runs a respectable place, is arriving for a visit. But soon, a more traditional western plot, with rustlers trying to start a range war, takes over. Foran's father is killed and Foran enlists as sheriff to right the rustlers. Cy Kendall is the main bad guy. Foran is fine, and Wayne Morris is as handsome as he's ever been. At only an hour, this B-western was well worth the time. I'll have to catch some more of these the next time TCM airs them.

This is actually a WWII spy movie done up as a western. It's one entry in a long series of B-films featuring the Three Mesquiteers, WWI buddies who work together on a ranch in Wyoming. The line-up over some fifty movies varied; here, it's Tucson Smith (Bob Steele), Stony Brooke (Tom Tyler) and Lullaby Joslin (Jimmie Dodd). Kindly German scientist Edward Van Sloan is conducting experiments to help expand the rubber crop for the Allied war effort. Some ranchers are suspicious of him, especially after three Nazi spies escape from a Canadian jail and wreck havoc in the area, trying to sabotage the experiments. There is death and disguise and heroism, along with a lesson about not being able to tell loyalty by a person's ethnic background. Jimmie Dodd was later better known as a regular on "The Mickey Mouse Club." [TCM]

Monday, November 15, 2004


A heart-warming movie with elements of GOODBYE MR. CHIPS, SUMMER OF '42, and the Andy Hardy movies. Claudette Colbert is an elderly schoolteacher who has come to a hotel in Washington to catch a glimpse of presidential candidate Dewey Roberts (Shepperd Strudwick), who was a student of hers 25 years earlier. As she waits in the lobby, she reminisces about 1916, a year that changed her life. Dewey is just a lad (Douglas Croft) at the end of his grammar school years, nursing a crush on his teacher, Colbert. Meanwhile, another teacher that Dewey idolizes (John Payne) meets Colbert and a romance develops. She goes off for the summer to a resort farm and Payne follows her, leading to a scandal, at least in the eyes of the school principal, so Payne leaves and joins the Canadian military. At Christmas, just before he is to be sent overseas to fight in WWI, Payne returns to marry Colbert, impulsively and in secret. Croft sees the two kissing and is distraught, leading to a tearful climax in which Colbert has to say goodbye to both her man and her student. The frame story, set in the present, has potential but isn't given much time to develop. Luckily, the bulk of the film works quite well, thanks to the strong performances of Colbert, Payne, and Croft. Ann Revere is a "spinster" schoolteacher who lives at the same boarding house as Colbert, and Frida Inescort has a small role as the adult Dewey's wife. Very sweet piece of Americana. [FMC]

Friday, November 12, 2004


A Poverty Row war movie that tried to capitalize on the tragic real-life events in the Philippines in the early days of WWII. According to the book "Star Spangled Screen," the Office of War Information gave the film's studio, PRC, a great deal of help in making the film, but it doesn't show, partly because all the government help in the world couldn't overcome a lack of imagination in direction and writing, and partly because the movie isn't really a war story or even an effective war propaganda film, but is instead a run-of-the-mill romantic triangle between three army doctors. Ellisa Landi (best known as the Christian heroine of De Mille's SIGN OF THE CROSS) is a doctor who has flown out to the island of Manoi in early December of 1941 to marry her suitor (Otto Kruger); in the middle of the wedding ceremony, the Japanese bombard the island from the air and our couple winds up on Corregidor where they run into Landi's former beau, Donald Woods. There is apparently still some spark between Landi and Woods, but we have to take that on faith since their bland acting (and, to be fair, weak writing) gives us little to go on for character motivation. Moderately more interesting is the romantic subplot between nurse Wanda McKay and soldier Rick Vallin, who are less stiff in the acting department than the leads. Frank Jenks, a familiar face from dozens of 30's and 40's films, provides some strained comic relief. The contemporary audience would have known that all concerned were doomed, as the U.S. ultimately retreated and abandoned the island to the Japanese; here, Landi is evacuated on the last boat out and we assume that everyone else will die or be held as prisoners. The movie is supposed to have a stirring epilogue written by poet Alfred Noyes, but that was missing from the print I saw on the Marathon DVD--in fact, it looks like the entire last reel except for "The End" title card was gone, so this version has an incredibly uninspiring ending with soldiers in tears hearing about the retreat. There is some newsreel footage of Japanese bombers, and some poorly done scenes of hand-to-hand combat in the jungles. Kruger has an inane grin on his face all the time, so whether he's happy, sad, or in love, he just comes off as stupefied. Landi looks like a drab Katharine Hepburn and isn't much better than Kruger. Both have given decent performances elsewhere, so I have to blame the director, William Nigh. Edgar Ulmer co-wrote the screenplay. Even as a fan of B-movie war propaganda, I was sorely disappointed in this. [DVD]

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Good example of a British film noir. Trevor Howard plays a former RAF flier who drifts into a life of crime, joining a gang of black marketeers (headed by Griffin Jones) who use the Valhalla funeral home as a front for smuggling anything from booze to cigarettes. When Howard finds out they're also handling drugs, he decides to leave, but Jones frames him for the death of a policeman and he's sent away for 15 years. Howard manages to escape and work his way back to London to get revenge on Jones. The movie has an undertone of dark comedy, such as a scene at the funeral home when Jones whistles "Silent Night" as his gang members hide in empty coffins. One such scene turns from comic to serious: while on the run, Howard breaks into a rural home to get food and clothes, and the wife, instead of being scared, tries to get him to kill her alcoholic husband. He declines, but after he leaves, she goes through with the murder and pins it on Howard. Sally Gray plays Jones' rejected girlfriend, a chorus girl who winds up helping Howard. Sebastian Cabot can be seen in a small role as a bar owner. All the acting is fine; the older woman who plays the funeral home director is especially good--I think the actress's name is Mary Marrell, but I'm having a hard time confirming that. However, Jones is astonishing, in a role that is 180 degrees away from his usual light, upper-class characters. Here, a mean glare disfigures his usually handsome looks; he's a brutal sadist, particularly to women, and comes off just short of psychopathic. The climatic fight between Jones and Howard takes place on the funeral home rooftop, around gigantic R.I.P. letters. The ending (spoiler ahead!!) is not so predictable: Jones dies after falling from the roof, but with his dying breath, he continues to insist that Howard killed the cop, and all other witnesses are either dead or unreliable. Howard is taken away and there is a glimmer of hope when the inspector notes that they will continue to investigate the case to come up with new facts to help clear Howard, but his fate remains ambiguous. Recommended. [DVD]

Monday, November 08, 2004


I've seen several Greta Garbo films and I just do not get her appeal, beyond her rather icy sensuality. This film begins promisingly, with the first few years of Garbo's life conveyed almost entirely by shadows against a wall. Her mother, a young unmarried woman, dies giving birth; the woman's father (Jean Hersholt) wants the baby to be left for dead, but the doctor refuses. The girl (Garbo) grows up under the thumb of the unloving Hersholt, and when he plans to marry her off to an older, drunken brute (Alan Hale) who tries to rape her, she runs away and meets up with engineer Clark Gable. The two fall quickly fall in love, but when Hersholt finds her, she runs away on a train and joins up with a circus as a coochie dancer. By the time Gable catches up with her, she has become, against her will, the kept woman of the circus owner and Gable, disgusted, leaves her. Her "fall and rise" commence as she does some serious whoring, eventually getting out of the gutter (where Gable told her she belonged) and into a penthouse as the mistress of a politician (Hale Hamilton). Once again, she and Gable meet up and once again, he misunderstands her situation and storms off. Garbo leaves Hamilton and follows Gable down to a rough Central American country, this time as a dancer (but not a whore) at a dive bar; a rich American man offers her security, but she waits for Gable, by now a drunken wreck, to come upon her one more time. Of course, the third time's the charm. This is the kind of overwrought melodrama that Marlene Dietrich and director Josef von Sternberg could do in their sleep, but Garbo and her director, Robert Z. Leonard, can't pull it off. Leonard does throw in some nice stylistic touches (the shadows, some effective camera moves) and the sets are elaborate, but Garbo never gets further than skin deep into her character. Gable is good, smoldering and using mannerisms that wore well through his career, right up to and including Rhett Butler, but the two don't set off many sparks together. Cecil Cunningham has some fun as the circus tattooed lady. Not terrible, but nothing special, except for fans of the stars. [TCM]

Saturday, November 06, 2004

KONGO (1932)

This wild and brutal jungle melodrama is close to being an archetypal pre-Code film, in manner and theme if not setting. Walter Huston plays a scarred and crippled big-game hunter who ruthlessly rules a small African village by virtue of his guns, his magic tricks, and his cohorts (who include Lupe Velez, later the Mexican Spitfire in a B-movie series of the 40's). He is confined to a wheelchair because of an encounter with another hunter (C. Henry Gordon) who had an affair with Huston's wife and crushed Huston's spine in a fight (and, according to Huston, sneered while doing so--Huston has the phrase "He sneered" on his wall). Now, Huston is putting the final touches on his long-planned revenge; he gets Virginia Bruce, Gordon's daughter (who was born of Huston's wife but apparently fathered by Gordon), out of a convent where she has been raised, has her taken to Singapore and forced into prostitution, then brought to Africa to be shown in her degraded state to Gordon. A doctor (Conrad Nagel) stumbles onto the scene, drugged out from chewing a wild leaf; Huston gets him under his thumb and forces him to operate to relieve some of the pain Huston still feels in his useless legs. Nagel falls in love with Bruce and conspires to help her escape, but Huston has other plans: once Gordon arrives, Huston will show him his miserable daughter, kill him, and let the villagers sacrifice the girl.

This is the very definition of unsavory material, but I mean that as a compliment here. The intensity of the performances, the unhealthy and grimy look of the surroundings (there's one particularly grotesque scene of Nagel stripped and plunged into a pond of leeches), and the perversity of the situation work together to give this a unique feel, matched in the early 30's only by the slightly less perverse SAFE IN HELL. Huston is powerful; it must have been tempting to go over the top with this melodramatic character, but Huston keeps a lid on his simmering performance which makes it all the more effective. Bruce is equally effective; when we first see her, she is a lovely blond angel, but when she arrives in Africa, she truly looks dissolute and diseased. The only false note is struck by Nagel, who is good when he's doped up, but is a little too sleekly Hollywoodish when sober and falling for Bruce. The climax has a nice little narrative twist which the viewer can probably guess ahead of time, but it still plays out well. Based on a Lon Chaney silent film, WEST OF ZANZIBAR. Highly recommended. [TCM]

Thursday, November 04, 2004


This Gershwin musical was filled with 16 tunes (including the classics "I Got Rhythm," "But Not for Me," and "Embraceable You") when it ran on Broadway and made a star out of Ethel Merman, but when RKO brought it to the screen, they got rid of all but three songs (and had George Gershwin add a new one) and turned it into a slapstick vehicle for the comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey. The plot of the movie (which may or may not be the same as the stage play) is negligible: a playboy (handsome juvenile Eddie Quillan) is sent out west by his father to live on a ranch in order to cure his girl-craziness, but instead he turns the place into a dude ranch resort. Woolsey and his wife (Kitty Kelly--not the celeb biographer) head out to the ranch for jobs, driven in a taxi by Wheeler and his kid sister (Mitzi Green). There is tomfoolery involving sheriffs, romance, and hypnotism, some spicy pre-Code humor, and a happy ending for all, but as in most Marx Brothers movies, the plot is strictly secondary, with music mostly relegated to a distant third place. Wheeler and Woolsey are enjoyable, and the silly new song, "You Got What Gets Me," is fun, but it's a shame the great Gershwin score was treated so shabbily. "I Got Rhythm" has some good moments, with the club audience singing along and huge cactuses swaying to the beat, but Kelly's voice is harsh and not up to the song. Mitzi Green, only 12 at the time, does some spot-on imitations of stars like Edna May Oliver and Bing Crosby singing "But Not For Me." Arline Judge and Dorothy Lee are more than acceptable as romantic interests. The last 15 minutes consists of some well done knockabout farce. This is more lively than the Garland/Rooney version in the 40's, but probably only of interest to fans of Wheeler and Woolsey--see my review of HIPS HIPS HOORAY on 7/20/04. [TCM]

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


The movie that is widely considered to be the first talkie. It wasn't really; aside from a background score, the only time synchronized sound occurs is during musical numbers (like "Toot, Toot, Tootsie" and "Mammy") some of which had a couple minutes worth of dialogue attached--the rest of the movie is silent, with title cards. However, it was the movie that proved to the Hollywood studios that talking pictures were not only feasible, but could be wildly popular. The plot concerns a Jewish boy, Jake Rabinowitz, whose father, a cantor at a synagogue, wants the boy to follow in his footsteps, but the boy, even at the young age of 13, knows he wants to sing "jazz" rather than sacred music--he already has a gig at a club under the name Ragtime Jakie. The cantor (Warner Oland) wants his son to sing "Kol Nidre" with him at a Yom Kippur service, but when the boy decides not to, the cantor gives him a whipping and the boy runs away. The adult Jakie (Al Jolson) ekes out a living singing in nightclubs (having changed his name to Jack Robin) and is discovered by singer May McAvoy. A romance keeps threatening to develop, but unless I missed something, it never really does. Jolson returns to New York years after his break with his family, about to make the big time as the star of a Broadway revue. His mother (Eugenie Besserer) is happy to see him, but Oland remains hard-hearted. The day of Jolson's Broadway opening also happens to be Yom Kippur, and with Oland on his deathbed, there's no one to sing "Kol Nidre" at the synagogue. Will Jolson stick with the show, or risk losing his big break in order to be reconciled with his father? The sentiment is piled on a bit thick, not just with the father, but also with the mother, who is torn between loyalty to her husband and wanting her son to have his wishes come true. Jolson was almost 40 when he made the movie, and looks way too old to be playing a young man getting his first break in show business. Oland is good as the cantor, and Jolson isn't bad, but Besserer engages in some of the most exaggerated silent acting I've ever seen. McAvoy, as the love interest, has little to do since the love story here is between Jolson and his parents. The best acting might be from teenager Bobby Gordon as the young Jakie. Don’t blink and you'll catch Myrna Loy in a one-line part as a chorus girl. Historically important, but not required viewing, except for die-hard Jolson fans. [TCM]