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Critical Moments

This is the time of year when all motion picture companies splash news of their attractions for the coming season. Paramount, Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers, RKO, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the lesser concerns, are all convinced that each has a corner on the cinema attraction market. M.G.M. promise no fewer than fifty-two feature and 181 short subjects; RKO boasts that they have purchased a score of popular books and a like number of successful plays, each one of which will be turned into a “sure fire box office attraction.” Universal talks about 100 or more super-films and hints that mysterious things are going on behind closed doors, which when opened will startle the cinema world.

Such optimism is to be expected, and in print these announcements seem worthy of the shouting that precedes them, but one, after a number of seasons, becomes less inclined to join in the ballyhoo. Cinema companies do strange things. A few weeks ago “Murder at the Vanities” was shown around town. Here was a picture upon which was expended a large sum of money. It was a musical. What did RKO do but hire as leads two people who sang as though they hadn’t finished lesson four of a correspondence school vocal course. The best taht the country can produce is employed to supply dialogue, and the result is inane, stupid, meaningless, rarely seen outside a third-class pulp magazine. A Broadway chorus, one of the most beautiful of its kind, is brought to Hollywood and then a cameraman takes shots so far away that the girls might just as well have been wearing masks. I single out “Murder at the Vanities” because it is an almost perfect example of Hollywood waste, but there were many other instances of inept directi.

Hal Le Roy, one of the best tap dancers on the stage, is inveigled into a studio at a fabulous salary and then put into a picture, “Wonder Bar” where he does one short dance, and in black-face at that. Fred Astaire, who has no peer as a dancer, suffered a like experience in “Flying Down to Rio.”

###ber.” Guy Lombardo’s band is asked to do a picture and instead of allowing this fine combination to play a medley of tunes they are handed one or two numbers which they play until the audience is distracted.

A FAVORITE PASTIME

Overworking stars is one of Hollywood’s favorite and fondest mistakes. A kid as clever and appealing as Shirley Temple comes along and clicks overnight. Her picture makes money, and the company then plans to use the child in every film it possibly can, with the result that she will start to loose her popularity before she really gets started. Katherine Hepburn, who made such a hit in “Little Women,” was immediately thrown into a piece of tripe called “Spitfire.” Now she must literally make a comeback if she wishes to retain her box office appeal.

Edward Robinson, Paul Muni, Charles Laughton, and other stars, are the victims of this habit. Before one picture has fairly been started the company is already announcing something new. That’s why stars have such a short life in pictures. The same thing happens to writers and directors. The only way to last in Hollywood is to be neither too good nor too bad. Mediocrity is the keynote of success in the West and that is the label for the great majority of pictures that come from California.

‘TRANSATLANTIC MERRY-GO-ROUND’

Reliance announces that “Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round” is the title of its production featuring a cast of screen, stage and radio stars. In the cast will be jack Benny, Nancy Carroll, Gene Raymond, Sydney Howard, Sid Silver, and a host of lesser lights. Benjamin Stoloff will be the director.

Herbert Wilcox, production head of British Dominions Pictures, now on a visit to this country, will be host at a special preview of “Nell Gwyn,” recently completed screen play, to be held at the Astor Theatre Tuesday evening, July 10. It will be followed by an informal reception.

Adapted by Miles Malleson from incidents in Pepys’ Diary and directed by Wilcox, “Nell Gwyn” costars Anna Neagle and Cedric Hardwicke. The supporting cast includes Jeanne De Casalis, Esme Percy, Helena Packard, Dorothy Robinson, Miles Malleson and Lawrence Anderson.

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