Critical Moments

Despite the fact that no producer could possibly be as lavish with scenery, sets and actors as Cecil De Mille was in “Cleopatra,” in his contribution to the historical flood of films which threaten to make unnecessary the teaching of history to our youth, I find after a surprisingly short search that the other companies are getting ready to release another batch of these films based on history. All of which is a trifle amusing because just a few years ago you could not convince a Hollywood producer that a historical costume picture would pay its way at the box-office. In fact the very hint of such an idea caused the shrugging of shoulders and the shaking of heads.

In looking over the forthcoming productions I find much that sounds promising. Warren Brothers are going to make “Napoleon” and Edward G. Robinson, the Jewish actor, will play the leading role. At RKO, Katherine Hepburn will do “Queen Elizabeth,” the virgin Queen of England. Paramount is going to make the “Scarlet Empress” with Marlene Dietrich in the title role. This will be a life of Catherine and Miss Dietrich will be placed in a position where she will have to excel the work of Elizabeth Bergner who made a picture based on the life of the same lady ruler. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who were so successful with Greta Garbo as “Queen Christina,” is planning to do “Marie Antoinette” in which Norma Shearer will star, and United Artists are basing a film on the life of Cellini.

As it was remarked in this column last week, it certainly looks as though the Hollywood extras are in for a lush season as each of these pictures will cost nearly a million dollars to make. Did it occur to you that none of these historical films have an American theme? With the censorship snoopers looking for trouble, the cry of “anti-Americanism” is due to be heard. Incidentally I don’t see why some enterprising company doesn’t dramatize some of the leading American historical personages. Is it because American heroines and heroes are not permitted to have love affairs or is it because they were all politicians?

HELEN HAYES RETURNS TO SCREEN

After an absence of more than a year, Helen Hayes returned last week to the screen and started on her new starring vehicle, “What Every Woman Knows,” Irving Thalberg’s production of the famous J. M. Barrie Scotch romance, at the Metro – Goldwyn – Mayer studios.

Miss Hayes resumes her screen career following a sensational triumph on the New York stage in “Mary of Scotland,” The new picture it is claimed, is to be lavished with every attention to detail in the life of a Scotch family and their efforts to marry off an “eligible” daughter.

Brian Aherne was chosen to play the leading male role, as a fighting young Scotchman who becomes a member of Parliament. He scored recently in “The Constant Nymph,” and “The Fountain.” Gregory La Cava, who recently completed “The Affairs of Cellini,” is directing.

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