Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Top Billed Actors: Norma Shearer, Fredric March, Charles Laughton
IMDb Rating: 7.1
*Best Picture Nominee*
Won 0 Oscars
Nominated for 2 more:
Best Actress - Norma Shearer
Plot: A pair of poets become pen pals and fall in love much to the dismay of a painfully cruel father, who is a little too jelly of his daughter's love.
As I stated previously, Shearer is spectacular once again. She just doesn't do poor performances. Although I was not enthralled by this film, I still can't help but admire her work and talents. Playing opposite the strong and hardy Laughton made some very entertaining and acting heavy moments, which is perfectly fine given this is adapted from a stage play. March is also very good and it is interesting to see him portray another overbearing man in Shearer's life, but in a positive way whereas Laughton plays the overbearing villainous father. And boy does he play the villain. He plays the role so well that one can't help but hate the character, with his bitter attitude toward love and happiness for his daughters. The subplot of incest, although taken out in explicit ways, is still present in a scene in particular, when Laughton breaks down in front of Shearer for just a moment. Laughton famously claimed the studio couldn't censor the "gleam" in his eye, which is very much present in the scene.
The acting is superb but the movie becomes stagnant and dull in a hurry. Most of the picture takes place in one room and there are very lengthy scenes with very few camera shifting. This is impressive as the actors were required to memorize a great deal more of their lines, but it made for a rather stale experience that seems all too restricted for film. It made much more sense for these stage plays on film in say, 1930, when sound technology prohibited directors from being too creative. But a 1934 play on film seems like a step back and a more creative adaptation seems more appropriate.
Overall, Shearer, March, and Laughton put on excellent performances but a slow pace and flat cinematography make this a chore to get through.
My Score: 5/10