Thursday, March 29, 2012

85. THE LOVE TRAP (1929)

William Wyler directed this fairly diverting romantic comedy at the end of the silent era; it's a silent film literally up to a point, when sound almost arbitrarily kicks in.

THE CAT AND THE CANARY's Laura La Plante stars as Evelyn Todd, a would-be dancer fired from a chorus line, who is enticed by an attractive and more worldly friend (Jocelyn Lee) to attend a party being thrown by wealthy Guy Emory (Robert Ellis), where she might earn "50 bucks, just for being pretty." She goes and gets paired off with influential, middle-aged and prematurely corpse-like Judge Harrington (Norman Trevor -- "I don't like him," we see her say, "he's too old!"), but just long enough for them to remember one another later... She soon attracts Emory's wandering eye and he offers her the fifty for her favors, and she throws it back in his face and storms out offended... into a rain storm, only to find all her belongings on the curb outside her apartment house. She is gallantly rescued by the dashing Peter (Neil Hamilton, later Commissioner Gordon on TV's BATMAN), for whom money is no concern -- it's love at first sight, and he loads her and her belongings into a caravan of four taxi cabs and drives them to imminent marriage. This becomes a problem when Peter introduces Evelyn to his snooty family, whose patriarchal uncle is none other than the cadaverous Judge Harrington, who disapproves of this chorus- and party-girl as wife material. To save her marriage, Evelyn manages to compromise the Judge just enough to convince Peter to slam the door on his family instead.

Wyler's direction of the lightweight script is lively and pleasant, and the actors are appealing, especially La Plante, whose wholesome sexuality, marcelled blonde hair and legginess suggest a 1920s rough draft of Doris Day. She also has an uncanny knack for making her voice heard between the intertitles, with well-articulated line readings that seem almost as memorable in retrospect as those we actually hear. This Universal production is also notable for featuring the early art direction of Charles D. Hall, who subsequently performed those chores on Lewis Milestone's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930) and all of Universal's early horror titles through THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

Viewed on Kino on Video DVD. 

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