Director: Alfred E. Green
Production Company: Warner Bros.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Top Billed Actors: George Arliss, Doris Lloyd, David Torrence
IMDb Rating: 6.5
*Best Picture Nominee*
Won 1 Oscar:
Best Actor - George Arliss
Nominated for 2 more:
Best Writing - Julien Josephson
Plot: The Prime Minister of Great Britain wants to purchase a ditch in Egypt and so do some Russians.
The main reason to watch this film today starts and ends with Arliss. An aging star at the time, Arliss put his name on the sound picture map with this incredible performance. Although the acting style can be seen as outdated by today's standards, Arliss never disappoints and commands attention in each and every scene. I've seen some call it 'stagey' but it fits the context as an adaptation to the play. Arliss demonstrates everything from sheer joy to extreme sorrow, all with talking involved! This depth of acting was relieving as the crop of movies from the second Awards did not contain this essential ingredient. Another relieving feature of this film was multiple camera angles during dialogue sequences. As this whole movie was essentially a play on film, the switching of cameras was vital in keeping the viewer tuned in. This may seem trivial, even for movies in the 1930s, but past movies I have watched for this project such as In Old Arizona (1928) and Coquette (1929) kept one camera on the acting for entire dialogue scenes.
This movie does fail for modern viewers in many regards. No music, even in between scenes, made this film very dry. It really was like watching a play captured on film, except in real locations. Like I said before, the acting is also very outdated and seems 'stagey.' The plot is also somewhat dull. The film focuses on Arliss' Disraeli character while the "action," in my opinion, would have been the negotiations to purchase the Suez Canal in Cairo. Instead, we see Arliss receiving telegrams and merely talking with other characters. These complaints make the movie suffer from a pacing perspective as well. It was better than expected, but can still be very slow at times.
Overall, this was a great start to the third Awards batch. Despite the outdated film techniques, the excellent acting by George Arliss drives this movie to a high status in film history.
My Score: 6/10