Sunday, July 2, 2017

Nugget Reviews - 23

Johannisnacht ( 1956 )  14k 

An opera singer divorces her husband shortly after an extended performing tour in America. Years later, she returns to Germany to see her daughter whom her husband hid away in a chalet in the valley. Willy Birgel, Hertha Feiler, Erik Schumann, Sonja Sutter, Wolfgang Grunner. MGM Pictures. Directed by Harald Reinl.

A sweet romance from Delos-Film studios. Austrian-born Hertha Feiler, who often starred in comedies with her husband Heinz Ruhmann, is given a decent dramatic part here and the location filming of this "Heimatfilm" is beautiful. There is also a nice sub-romance going on between Erik Schumann and Sonja Sutter. 


A Royal Scandal ( 1945 ) Elect.

A young idealistic lieutenant warns Catherine the Great of treachery within her court. She finds his loyalty and good looks very appealing and makes him her boy-toy, much to the chagrin of his true love, Queen Catherine's lady-in-waiting, Anna. Tallulah Bankhead, Charles Coburn, Anne Baxter, William Eythe, Vincent Price, Mischa Auer. 20th Century Fox Pictures. Directed by Otto Preminger and Ernst Lubitsch.

Ernst Lubitsch was a master at creating frothy comedies. He reached his prime in the early 1930s with such classics as Monte Carlo, The Smiling Lieutenant, One Hour with You and Ninotchka, but even he couldn't save this film from Preminger's heavy-handed direction. While there were a few amusing sequences in A Royal Scandal, overall the comedy seemed force. Tallulah Bankhead gave a grand performance as Catherine the Great, with some excellent support from character actors Charles Coburn and Sig Ruman, in spite of the circumstances.


King Richard and the Crusaders ( 1954 ) 14k.

While encamped in the Holy Land, two noblemen plot to murder Richard the Lionheart and make his death appear to be from a Saracen attack, but his loyal knight Sir Kenneth discovers the plan. Rex Harrison, Laurence Harvey, George Sanders, Virginia Mayo, Robert Douglas. Warner Brothers. Directed by David Butler. 

Rex Harrison and Laurence Harvey give engrossing performances in this otherwise run-of-the-mill Crusades adventure, based upon Sir Walter Scott's novel "The Talisman". George Sanders makes an unconvincing King Richard, and Virginia Mayo's presence serves merely as eye-candy, but the Technicolor is beautiful and it's fun watching Rex Harrison tackle an Arab role.


Scaramouche ( 1923 ) Elect.

A quiet French lawyer becomes a revolutionary after a nobleman kills his friend in a duel. Ramon Navarro, Alice Terry, Lewis Stone, Julia Swayne Gordon. Metro Pictures. Directed by Rex Ingram.

Production standards were high in this Rex Ingram silent classic, but the film fails to capture the excitement of Rafael Sabatini's novel and lingers on a bit too long. The zest that Stewart Granger brought to the part of Andre Moreau in the 1952 remake was non-existent in Novarro's portrayal. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford would have been ideal casting choices instead. However, the French Revolution sequences at the climax were truly hair-raising.


The Toy Wife ( 1938 ) 14k

A flirtatious and frivolous Southern belle marries her sister's serious-minded fiancee. He later comes to regret not having found himself a more sensible wife. Luise Rainer, Melvyn Douglas, Barbara O'Neil, Robert Young, Alma Kruger. MGM Pictures. Directed by Richard Thorpe.

Luise Rainer was fresh from her Oscar-winning performance in The Good Earth when she starred in The Toy Wife, MGM's consolation project after losing the book rights to Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind". This southern belle story put the spotlight on Rainer, allowing her - as "Frou-Frou" - to swoosh her hoop skirts around New Orleans and playfully toy with the heart-strings of not one, but two, gentlemen. It makes for engrossing soap. Barbara O'Neil earned the role of Ellen ( Scarlett's mother ) in Gone with the Wind, thanks to her performance in this film as Frou-Frou's sister. 


  1. I found SCARAMOUCHE to be disappointing, too. It's my favorite Sabatini novel (sorry, CAPTAIN BLOOD fans) and the Stewart Granger version is immensely entertaining.

    1. I had high hopes for the film, but it just fell flat. This is one of those rare cases when the remake was much better than the original. Ramon Navarro gave no hint that he was born with the "gift of laughter and the sense that the world was mad".

  2. 'The Toy Wife' looks to be an interesting movie. (I adore Robert Young and find him to be a well-suited romantic lead, but perhaps I'm a minority.)
    It is interesting to see him alongside Melvyn Douglas again. They starred together, cast as brothers, in the film "The Shining Hour" and I thought they worked well together. It is also in that film that there is a 3-way love triangle between themselves and Joan Crawford.