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Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
This early example of the "backstage" musical genre tells the story of Kitty Darling, a fading burlesque star who tries to save her convent-educated daughter April from following in Mom's footsteps.Written by
When April comes backstage to see Kitty after returning home from the convent, the shot from outside the dressing room shows Kitty sitting at her mirror and then turning to see April in the doorway. In the next shot, from inside the dressing room, she once again is sitting at her mirror and once again turns to see April entering. See more »
Great early talkie backstager with inventive camera work
Made in 1929, this film was directed by Robert Mamoulian and features some pioneering camera work. Specifically, the static camera of other 1929 films is absent here. Mamoulian does some of this by shooting part of the picture silent with sound dubbed over it, such as in the scene where Kitty first arrives in New York and the camera follows her line of sight as she looks around the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Station. In scenes with lots of motion that have dialogue, Mamoulian has the players walking away from the camera so he can dub in the dialogue unsynchronized to the players' actual speech. If you didn't know how he did this, you wouldn't notice it.
If you are expecting to see Helen Morgan the torch singer doing the same type of act she did for Ziegfeld in his Follies, you'll be disappointed. Instead, be prepared to see Helen Morgan the actress in this one. Here Helen Morgan plays Kitty Darling, a woman of burlesque whose husband is sent to the electric chair for killing a man in a fit of jealousy. Kitty gives birth to their daughter, April, at about the same time. Convinced by a friend that the burlesque backstage is no place for a child to grow up, Kitty sends April to a convent school in Wisconsin. She remains there from age 5 to age 17.
When April returns home she finds her mother's world in sharp contrast to the peace of the convent. Plus, Kitty has taken up with a younger man. He is a parasite who is two and three timing her and soaking up what money she has. He tries to put the moves on April, but with no success. Kitty dealing with the end of her career and both her private and professional humiliation is hard to watch. Morgan gained weight and donned an unkempt blonde wig just for this part, and her acting is superb. Do realize that much of the film focuses on April, Kitty's daughter. Joan Peers was the actress playing April, and this was her first credited screen role. She handles the part quite well, but by 1931 her career in films was over.
By the way, the video quality is excellent and the audio is fine too if you are viewing the Kino DVD. It is necessary to turn up the volume a little during some outdoor or crowd scenes that have dialogue. However, there is no hissing and crackling in the audio, nor is the sound of shoes clomping around and jewelry clanging in competition with speech as in many other early sound films.
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