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Design for Scandal (1941)
Delightful "Libeled Lady" rehash
Delightful romantic comedy with a plot that is, basically, a rehash of "Libeled Lady" (1936), beautifully done with nice cast. Rosalind Russell appears as a judge — as she would again in "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" (1947) — but also as a career woman whose repressed femininity makes her easy game for unscrupulous ladies' man Walter Pidgeon. That particular feature adds interest to the interaction between both characters and even, in a way and to a certain extent, gives this unpretentious little comedy a sort of an edge on the aforementioned classic screwball comedy. The chemistry between the leading couple is perfect and both are great in their respective parts. Arnold is also effective in another of his roles as a ruthless businessman (here a newspaper editor), the kind of characterization he played to perfection in several Frank Capra's comedies. Famous 'Vera Vague' (Barbara Jo Allen) plays a bit part, and the character that made the actress's fame is credited under hers (between parentheses) in the main titles.
Jan Hus (1955)
Effective Historical Drama on the life of the Great Religious Reformer
Biopic on Czechoslovakia's great historical figure and precursor of the Reformation. Somewhat academic in style and not particularly original, but well enacted, with some brilliant performances. An absorbing and historically honest denouncement of the abuses committed by the Roman Catholic Church in the 15th century, which occasioned the Reformation one century later. However, since the Czechs were under communist domination when the film was made, it overemphasizes political and economical over purely religious matters; the oppression of poor people by the rich clergy and nobility becomes the central issue. The Czech studios were no Hollywood, but, by their standards, this appears to have been a lavish production, and it is quite effective as a historical drama.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
The definitive 'Jekyll and Hyde' movie
This is the definitive and unsurpassed screen adaptation of R. L. Stevenson's story, brilliant in every aspect. It begins with a complex 3-min. scene entirely filmed in first-person camera, which sort of foreshadows the first transformation scene, also shot in first person (seen in a mirror) with magnificent makeup effects achieved by means of a subtle change of filters before the camera lens. March excels, both as an increasingly desperate Dr. Jekyll and as an ape-like Mr. Hyde (under heavy make-up). M. Hopkins, often an over-actress in other movies, plays her role to the hilt but never inordinately, and interacts marvelously with March in the most intense, dramatic sequences. Mamoulian's direction is subtle, rich in complex imagery and expressive details. After M. Hopkins' extremely daring (for 1931) strip scene, her naked leg is seen swinging from her bed, and, in a lap dissolve, remains in sight by superimposition for some 20 seconds into the following scene, as if still teasing Jekyll innerly. Extensive use of wipes is made, and the wipe often stops momentarily, splitting the screen diagonally where two different scenes are related (often the two ladies: R. Hobart and M. Hopkins). Statuettes in the set decoration contain an important symbolism (for instance: when Hyde kills Ivy, the camera closes on a statuette of Cupid kidnapping Psyche). The boiling cauldron is also symbolic: it explodes when Jekyll despairs in his lab, and is also seen on the foreground in the very last shot of the movie, as Jekyll dies. Note also the cat that kills the bird (the killing is obviously not shown on screen), triggering Jekyll's transformation into Hyde, and Hyde's beastly joy in the rain. No music is used except for Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor heard in the main title. – All in all, this picture is a superlative cinematic accomplishment.
Our Dancing Daughters (1928)
Late silent drama - not outstanding but interesting to see
Silent drama, released with a synchronized soundtrack that included music — including a few songs — and sound effects. J. Crawford stars as a flapper who deep down had a good heart, whereas A. Page is a conniving, hypocritical gold-digger who poses as a virtuous girl. While both compete for the love of wealthy Mack Brown (long before his western days). A third character (Dorothy Sebastian) is a virtuous 'aurea mediocritas', a girl who had a dark past but found redemption through repentance and honesty about her earlier life toward her new fiancé. The conclusion is not unlike the pattern that would later be established in Production-Code days: the adulteress dies so that the good girl can marry the man — and the final title makes clear that a decent two-year interval was observed. The plot is thus simplistic and formulaic, but it was very well handled by director and cast. By 1928 silent films had developed their art and language to such a refinement that even average productions like this are rich in expression and highly interesting to see. Cast is tops and J. Crawford already displays a captivating screen personality; the very first shot in the picture is a close-up on her legs doing her famous Charleston.