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Critical Moments

Miss Gloria Swanson, by choosing for her return to the screen # picturization of Jerome Kern# operetta “Music in the Air,” mad a wise choice. The favorite of the silent screen days has been absent long enough so that the public has had a chance to forget her indifferent pictures and remember only her successes. It is a pleasant surprise to find the tiny star in a gay, delightful, tuneful and enjoyable film made by Fox and written by Oscar Hammerstein with music by Jerome Kern and Howard Irving Young.

At the Music Hall, where “Music in the Air” is being shown, the audience was apparently familiar with Jerome Kern’s work when it was a stage play and the fact that this audience expressed its pleasure with the picture is indicative of its quality. “Music in the Air,” as you no doubt recall, was a slightly satirical tale of a composer, a lyric writer and a not too talented but ambitious ingenue who breezed into Munich determined to show that musically-minded city a few tricks. How they failed to cause a stir and flopped dismally was told with telling effect. In the film this plot has been retained and even amplified so that none of the sly digs has become obscure.

In the matter of music, the favorite tunes of the operetta have been kept in the picture and Mr. Young has added a number of singable songs. Miss Swanson as the prima donna and John Boles as the leading man manage with some effort to be amusing. The rest of the cast, especially Al Shean who appeared in the original version, fit very well and all help make “Music in the Air” a better than average film.

‘BABES IN TOYLAND’ AT THE ASTOR

“Babes in Toyland,” which was brought into the Astor Theatre for the Christmas trade, is based very properly on Victor Herbert’s operetta. Laurel and Hardy are the featured players and the result is a fantastic, imaginative film that should delight the children.

Santa Claus, Mother Goose and many of the other favorites of the nursery have been called into being and a plot has been woven around them. It is all extremely funny and not a little exciting. A scene wherein the wooden soldiers save little Bo-Peep from the villain is excellently done. There are many other moments in the film that the children will like. Much as I dislike to use a hackneyed expression it is a picture that will tittivate adults as well as youngsters.

Alas, Lew Brown’s musical extravaganza falls far below Broadway musical comedy standards. The music is not tuneful, the dancing indifferent, the skits only mildly funny and the chorus work weak. Even the talents of Lou Holtz, Phil Baker, Everett Marshall and Gertrude Niesen cannot rescue this indifferently conceived piece from mediocrity. Coming after “Say When” and “Anything Goes,” “Calling All Stars” is too much of a let-down.

‘THE SKY’S THE LIMIT’ AND OTHER NOTES

Last evening’s opening at the Fulton Theatre was “The Sky’s the Limit,” in which two vaudevillians, Joe Smith and Charles Dale, play with the idea of radio advertising. The play was written by Pierce Johns and Hendrik Booraem. . . . “Revenge With Music,” in which Libby Holman is starred, will reopen next Monday evening. . . . “Dodsworth” which has been running for more than a year will close within four weeks. . . . Beginning December {SPAN}2#{/SPAN} the Theatre Mass will present at the Fifth Avenue Theatre on Twenty-eighth street and Broadway, Ernst Toller’s great drama, “The Red Sun Burning.” This is the German Communist’s anti-war play. . . . “Ode to Liberty,” {SPAN}Sid#ey{/SPAN} Howard’s adaptation of Michel {SPAN}#uran’s{/SPAN} “Liberte Provisoire,” which {SPAN}#an{/SPAN} successfully in Paris last season, will be presented by Gilbert Miller at the Lyceum Theatre Friday evening.

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