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Critical Moments

December 11, 1934
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Greta Garbo is at the Capitol, the missing president may be found at the Paramount and the mad Czar Paul will be discovered at the Cameo. To be less acute, this is to inform you that “The Painted Veil,” with Greta Garbo; “The President Vanishes,” with Arthur Byron, and “The Czar Wants to Sleep,” with M. Yanshin, are the three leading cinema attractions of the current week.

In placing these films in the order of their entertainment value I would give first place to “The President Vanishes,” second spot to “The Czar Wants to Sleep” and a very close third to “The Painted Veil.”


“The President Vanishes” is a brave though melodramatic attempt on the part of Walter Wanger, who made the film, to puncture the ballyhoo that is being built up in favor of Fascism. Incidentally, Mr. Wanger also throws with telling effect, a few bombs at such selfish interests as the munitions makers, international bankers and the militarists. I believe that he has done a fine job and brought forth a powerful instrument to combat the aforementioned evil forces that are anxious to inveigle this country into a nationalistic war.

Taken from a story by Rex Stout, the novelist, Paramount unfolds the story of a group of greedy capitalists who are trying to force the United States into a war so that their investments may be saved. To help gain their objective they have enlisted the aid of an organization called the Grey Shirts who are led by a fanatic named Lincoln Lee. The president, played by Arthur Byron, is opposed to such machinations and refuses to help even though a majority of Americans who have been fed on propaganda, think they are in favor of a Fascist government. When things reach a critical point the president vanishes. In the worry over his disappearance the people forget the blandishments of the Fascists and gradually are won over to the side of the president. While he is gone the capitalists determine to go on with their program and have won the vice-president to their way of thinking, but at the crucial moment the president returns and saves the country.

Before this film was released the producers were worried because of its anti-capitalistic bias and feared much opposition, but I believe that they have worried in vain. Compared to what is printed in even a mildly liberal newspaper, “The President Vanishes” is almost innocous stuff. However, it is the first American-made film in which some attempt has been made to awaken the public to the dangers that threaten and for that reason it is important. Besides its social significance “The President Vanishes” is well acted, intelligently directed and is an entirely exciting and thrilling film.


After a diet of serious propagandistic films from Russia “The Czar Wants to Sleep” comes as welcome relief. It is a whimsical satire, finely directed by Alexander Feinsimmer and acted with great skill by a cast headed by M. Yanshin.

Although the dialogue is done in Russian the English superimposed titles allow the audience to follow this mad, slightly delirious tale of crazy Czar Paul who is awakened from a nap when his aide is pinched by a lady. The gentleman’s squeals awaken the Czar who demands that the squealer, if and when discovered, shall be sent to Siberia. The Czar’s wishes must be obeyed, but instead of coming forward and confessing, the aide, with the help of his uncle convinces the Czar that the person who hollered was an ethereal body and not of the flesh. The picture then shows how this non-existent body is treated as though it were a man. It is wined, dined, punished and exiled. Later the Czar relents and orders the return of this body. The return is hilariously done with pomp and ceremony.

Despite its laugh provoking qualities, “The Czar Wants to Sleep” conveys an obvious message. It points out how a completely incompetent monarch is able to gratify his mad whims at the expense of an entire nation. No picture of this kind has ever been shown in this country and you should not miss it.


Greta Garbo is the mainstay of “The Painted Veil.” W. Somerset Maugham’s novel has been made into a trite, sentimental and meaningless triangle situation but Miss Garbo can endow a hackneyed plot with a glamor and spirit that make you believe it is all very real.

“The Painted Veil” is the story of a scientist who marries a professor’s daughter (Garbo) and takes her off to China. While there she falls in love with another man, a British diplomat. Her husband is willing to give her up if the diplomat will leave his own wife and marry Garbo but he refuses. The scientist then forces his wife to accompany him into a cholera-ridden section of China. With death all around her Garbo realizes that her husband is really a good man and there is a reconciliation.

You must admit that such a plot is neither novel nor particularly moving but with Miss Garbo in the cast she endows the proceedings with meaning and evokes your sympathy and understanding for her plight.

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