Sunday, September 6, 2009

Marianne (Robert Z. Leonard) *1/2

Robert V. Leonard

Cast: Marion Davies, Lawrence Gray, Cliff Edwards, Benny Rubin, George Baxter

Background: The second of two versions of this story, both starring Marion Davies. The original version was a silent, and the hope then was that the experiment with sound pictures would fail. That didn't happen, so a talkie version was made. It would be Marion Davies' first sound picture. She previously teamed with co-star Lawrence Gray in The Patsy.

Story: During World War 1, a French girl (Davies) catches the eye of several American soldiers and falls for one of them (Gray), but she is promised to a French soldier.

Thoughts: Casting Marion Davies as a French woman may have worked in a silent film, but with recorded dialogue it does not work at all. As great a comic actress as Marion is, her performance here is dreadful, with a ridiculous (and almost unrecognizable) French accent that is incredibly annoying and not credible or funny one bit. This saps every bit of fun from the story. Marion sure gives an energetic performance, but the ridiculous accent destroys every single joke. The only fun bits involve the men who are courting her and a genuinely charming sequence in the third act where Marion performs musical numbers meant to be impressions of Sarah Bernhardt and Maurice Chevalier. There's not much else to say about this one. What a disaster.

Postscript: Davies would make 14 talkies in total, but her best remembered films are the two silents she made with King Vidor, Show People and The Patsy. She would also team up once again with Gray in 1930's The Floradora Girl.

No comments: