This movie's a mess. I viewed this film in the archives of a private collector: it was a nitrate print that had been improperly stored and was starting to bubble, so I had to view it on a hand-cranked Steenbeck viewer instead of through motorised projector sprockets. Even in its original form, this movie must have been a mess. I'm very much a Raymond Griffith fan, but this is not one of his better films. The director is Frank Tuttle, a long-time studio hack who worked with some of the biggest talents in Hollywood, yet who almost invariably churned out dull films. Tuttle's best films are probably "Puritan Passions" and "Roman Scandals".
"Time to Love" is ostensibly set in France, but it looks more like Ruritania, and the period is uncertain. Griffith, wearing his ubiquitous top hat, plays a Frenchman improbably named Alfred Sava-Goiu. Attempting to commit suicide, he falls into the gondola (and the lap) of Countess Elvire, played by Vera Voronina (who is quite attractive, with unusual looks, but she's certainly no actress).
This initial "meet cute" is followed by a hash-up of gags, some of which are quite funny but none of which combine into a coherent plot line. Even allowing for the fact that I viewed a damaged and incomplete print, this movie makes very little sense. William Powell, very dapper in spats, plays a Prince named Alado. (What nationality is that?) Griffith typically played men who were supposed to be suave and handsome, but Powell's the genuine article. Whenever Griffith and Powell are in the same shot, Griffith comes off very much second-best.
Powell has to fight a duel, so he asks Griffith to substitute for him. Griffith triumphs over two duellists, with his usual super-efficiency. Then there's an unfunny sequence with a phony medium.
This movie falls prey to one of the defects of silent-film grammar. In silent films, a sudden noise is usually preceded by an insert shot (a hand knocking a door, a doorbell ringing) to show us the source of the sound which the characters hear but we can't. During the seance scene in "Time to Love", there's a repeated knocking but we're not meant to know the source of the sound until after the knocking stops. So the director can't show us where it's coming from, and therefore (because this is a silent film) we don't even know the precise nature of the sound. We have to look at the actors reacting to something we can't hear; we don't know what it is, nor where it's coming from, and this is no end of annoying.
Alfred Sava-Gooey (whoever) has to fake his own death in a duel, then he comes back as his own (fake) twin brother. Never mind why. The Countess, who fell instantly in love with Alfred, now takes an instant dislike to his identical twin brother who is actually the same man. The Countess is all set to marry the Prince, but Alfred snatches her away and they escape in a hot-air balloon. Hot air, indeed.
Many silent films were shot on the fly, with a crude scenario instead of a script. The scheme was to get footage into the can, then string it together with intertitles and hope to get a coherent plot line. If a pile of dead-earnest footage failed to cohere into an intelligent silent-film drama, a few sarcastic dialogue cards would turn it into a passable silent-film comedy. "Time for Love" (which appears to have been shot at Paramount's Astoria studio in New York) was apparently made in this haphazard fashion.
Raymond Griffith is a sadly underrated comedian whose films are long overdue for reappraisal. Alas, "Time to Love" doesn't stand up to close inspection. Griffith's best-known film, "Hands Up!", is probably his best and funniest film.
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