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Critical Moments

October 30, 1934
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It may be, and as a mattes of fact I am pretty sure that it is, platitudinous to say that an actress whether she is before a camera, a microphone or a row of footlights is the same actress but the procession of cinema products that come from Hollywood make it necessary to repeat this obvious truth.

Hollywood has tried to hide a lack of histrionic talent by window dressing and ballyhoo, but it learned that all the tinsel and lighting effects cannot obliterate sloppy acting. A bad actor can spoil a good story, but a talented player can carry a weak vehicle. This truth has finally permeated the skulls of most of Hollywood’s producers with the result that contracts to well known stage stars are now offered with much more willingness. A few years ago the myth was nurtured that the cinema was a distinct and different art, requiring an acting technique different than that used on the stage. But it has now been discovered that good legitimate players adapt themselves very easily to this imaginary technique. If you have noticed, you will find that is the reason so many good pictures have come out of Hollywood this season.

On our own Broadway this week, two unusually fine pictures are being shown “What Every Woman Knows” (Capital) and “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch” (Paramount). In the first Miss Helen Hayes plays the lead and in the other it is Pauline Lord who brings new life to this once popular American novel. Both of these ladies have earned the applause of theatre-goers and both have found the sound camera no detractor of their skill.

In the picturization of the famous play by James Barrie, Helen Hayes who played the leading role again essays that pleasant task and gives a fine performance as the little Scotch girl who thinks she lacks charm. You perhaps remember the play. It concerns a Scotch girl who cannot get a husband until her brothers trap young John Stand in their living room. He has come to study, while they are asleep, but instead of arresting him they make a marriage pact. Five years elapse and John is elected to Parliament. A dour, unsmiling Scot, his conceit allows him to be unaware of the fact that his wife is really the brains of the family. What happened when he discovers this and how he reacts to it are all blended together into one of the most delightful and entertaining films I have even seen.

As the Pollyanna Mrs. Wiggs, Pauline Lord gives to her role a deliciously satirical treatment that its author never intended it to have. When “Mrs. Wiggs” was a best seller as a novel it was the story of the poor lady and her brood of geographically named children. No matter what happened to her, it was always for the best. Even when her son died and she was about to be thrown out of her poor home, she remained cheerful and forgiving. Her delight for small favors was all out of proportion to what she received from life. In the film, the externals are still there but Miss Lord slyly plays a Mrs. Wiggs who manages to get what she wants. Zasu Pitts, as the young spinster woman who wants a husband, and W. C. Fields, as the gastronomic groom, add to the hilarity. The rest of the cast, especially the children of Mrs. Wiggs, also earns a share of the honors. A word must be said for Billy Wiggs’ horse — no sadder or stranger or more pathetic looking animal has ever been on a screen. All in all “Mrs. Wiggs” is picture fare grade double A.

Despite the good notices it received, “Loyalties” didn’t eke out a full week at the Mayfair. An S.O.S. was sent out and today “Student Tour,” the musical film featuring Jimmy Durante and Charles Butterworth Jr., moves in…. George Arliss in “The Last Gentleman” lasted three weeks at the Rivoli and, commencing tomorrow, the highly ballyhoed “Transatlantic Merry-Go – Round” with Jack Bneny and a very talented cast will start what is hoped with Jack Benny and a very tal-Family, with Eddy and kids, features the stage show at Loew’s State this week. The picture is “The Barretts of Wimpole Street.”

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