Tag Archives: John Wray

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930, Lewis Milestone)

For the first act or so of All Quiet on the Western Front, director Milestone very gently puts the viewer amid the naïveté of the film’s protagonists, a group of students who drop out to enlist (in the first World War). He opens with this gorgeously complicated shot–brilliantly edited by Edgar Adams and shot by Arthur Edeson–coming into the classroom from a parade of soldiers on the street. There’s a fantastical grand element to Milestone’s composition in that first act, just like the new recruits think they are beginning a grand adventure.

All Quiet on the Western Front moves very quickly. It runs around 130 minutes, but Milestone fades between vignettes. Lew Ayres is the protagonist, but he’s the protagonist because the war removes other potential protagonists. It only really becomes his film in the last quarter of the picture. But it’s not Ayres’s character’s story. Milestone and the screenwriters–Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, Del Andrews–do a brilliant job of positioning all the characters in relation to one another. They understand the story better than the viewer does. The viewer is simply watching.

This approach–and excellent direction from Milestone and fantastic acting all around (Louis Wolheim, William Bakewell and John Wray stand out)–leads to Quiet being able to be utterly devastating but never exhausting; never exciting but always riveting. Milestone matches his attention to the battle scenes, often singularly good, with his attention to the character scenes.

All Quiet is a particularly amazing motion picture.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Lewis Milestone; screenplay by Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott and Del Andrews, based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque; director of photography, Arthur Edeson; edited by Edgar Adams; produced by Carl Laemmle Jr.; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Louis Wolheim (Kat), Lew Ayres (Paul), John Wray (Himmelstoss), Arnold Lucy (Kantorek), Ben Alexander (Kemmerich), Scott Kolk (Leer), Owen Davis Jr. (Peter), Walter Rogers (Behn), William Bakewell (Albert), Russell Gleason (Mueller), Richard Alexander (Westhus), Harold Goodwin (Detering), Slim Summerville (Tjaden), G. Pat Collins (Bertinck), Beryl Mercer (Paul’s Mother) and Edmund Breese (Herr Meyer).


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Miss Pinkerton (1932, Lloyd Bacon)

It’s not difficult to assign blame for Miss Pinkerton‘s failings, it’s difficult to identify anything good about it.

I suppose Joan Blondell isn’t bad in the lead, but she isn’t good. She’s just doing a persona. Wait, George Brent’s good. He’s the police inspector who–quite unrealistically–enlists nurse Blondell to investigate a wacky family for him. He doesn’t believe a murder is a suicide. Or vice versa.

But Blondell just walking around wide-eyed and a little flirty isn’t enough to make a movie. Pinkerton needs some kind of mystery, right?

One mystery might be why the filmmakers use the exteriors to a large house–not a mansion or estate–as the film’s central location. It’s endlessly large in the interiors, which don’t match the exteriors at all.

The supporting cast is atrocious, except C. Henry Gordon. Particularly bad are John Wray and Ruth Hall. Wray acts like he’s in a farce and Hall’s laughable as the victim’s fiancée.

The real problem with Pinkerton is director Bacon. He can’t get good performances from his cast and he can’t make the film’s weak mystery engaging. He also doesn’t seem to understand head room. People are constantly bumping their heads in Pinkerton.

Bacon’s problems directing aren’t immediately apparent because Ray Curtiss’s editing is so awful. It actually distracts from the direction until the head room issues get too obvious.

Barney McGill’s photography, while no great shakes, is competent at least.

Pinkerton‘s greatest success is being really short but still exceptionally boring.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Lloyd Bacon; screenplay by Niven Busch, Lillie Hayward and Robert Tasker, based on the novel by Mary Roberts Rinehart; director of photography, Barney McGill; edited by Ray Curtiss; produced by Hal B. Wallis; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Joan Blondell (Nurse Adams), George Brent (Police Inspector Patten), Ruth Hall (Paula Brent), John Wray (Hugo), Elizabeth Patterson (Juliet Mitchell), C. Henry Gordon (Dr. Stuart), Holmes Herbert (Arthur Glenn), Mary Doran (Florence Lenz), Blanche Friderici (Mary), Mae Madison (Second Nurse), Nigel De Brulier (Coroner James A. Clemp) and Eulalie Jensen (Miss Gibbons – Superintendent of Nurses).


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