Monday, October 5, 2009

The Bachelor Father (Robert Z. Leonard) **1/2

Robert Z. Leonard

Cast: Marion Davies, C. Aubrey Smith, Ray Milland, Ralph Forbes, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Nina Quartero

Background: Leonard had received an Oscar nomination for 1930's The Divorcee and had previously worked with Marion on in the abysmal 1929 musical Marianne.

Story: A wealthy Englishman (Smith) bachelor who has illegitimate children around the world tries to unite them so they can finally spend time with him. After an iffy beginning, they begin to bond, but Toni (Davies) isn't aware of the secret that he isn't her father after all, while she falls in love with his assistant (Milland).

Thoughts: Another vehicle for Marion that just doesn't live up to her talents. Once again, she's stuck in a film with a very static visual design and a script that doesn't give her the right material to work with. She brings as much as she can, with a winning enthusiasm that makes the film far more pleasant and entertaining than it should be. There is also a decent chemistry between her and Ray Milland. However, this film just doesn't have a strong narrative drive. It just kind of sits there, with very little plot progression until a rushed third act twist which is wrapped up too neatly. It's a shame because Marion is a very talented comedienne as she proved in Show People and The Patsy, but so far she has not picked very good projects in the sound era.

Postscript: Director Robert Z. Leonard would go on to direct Best Picture winner The Great Ziegfeld in 1936, for which he received his second Oscar nomination. Marion continued acting for another 6 years, including films with Clark Gable and Gary Cooper. Ray Milland would have a long and successful career, including a Best Actor Oscar for 1945's The Lost Weekend.

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