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White Tiger (1923)

7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 74 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 4 critic

Three crooks pull off a magnificent crime. As they're forced to hide out together they slowly begin to distrust each other.

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(screenplay), (story), 1 more credit »
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Title: White Tiger (1923)

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Matt Moore ...
...
Roy Donovan
...
Count Donelli / Hawkes
Alfred Allen ...
Mike Donovan
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Storyline

Three crooks pull off a magnificent crime. As they're forced to hide out together they slowly begin to distrust each other.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Mystery

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Details

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Release Date:

17 December 1923 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Den hvide Tiger  »

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(DVD)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Trivia

A Jewel Production. Universal did not own a proprietary theater network and sought to differentiate its feature product to independent theater owners. Carl Laemmle created a 3-tiered branding system: Red Feather (low budget programmers), Bluebird (mainstream releases) and Jewel (prestige films). Jewel releases were promoted as worthy of special promotion in hopes of commanding higher roadshow ticket prices. Universal ended branding in late 1929. See more »

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Featured in Kingdom of Shadows (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Browning aversion.
17 April 2005 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

This film's title (a contrived reference to the criminal instinct) is so arbitrary, I suspect that someone in Universal's front office ordered Tod Browning to make a movie called 'White Tiger' but didn't care about its actual content.

SPOILERS COMING. We get several of the usual Tod Browning elements here: a grotesque scam, urban criminals who hide out in the woods, stolen jewels concealed in an unprepossessing object, and the convenient regeneration of a lifelong criminal.

The story opens in a London slum, resembling the one in 'The Blackbird', but with a prologue structurally similar to the one in 'West of Zanzibar'. Roy and Sylvia Donovan are the young children of a criminal who has just been shopped to Scotland Yard by his henchman Hawkes (Wallace Beery). As the peelers burst in, Hawkes flees with little Sylvia, leaving boy Roy to his own devices as the children's father is killed.

Fade in fifteen years later at 'a famous wax musee (sic) in London' (I wonder which one). The grown-up Roy (played by Raymond Griffith) is now working inside a mechanical chess-playing device, clearly inspired by the (equally fraudulent) automaton which Johann Nepomuk Maelzel exhibited in Europe and America in the 1830s, and which was rumbled in an 1836 essay by Edgar Allan Poe (whom Raymond Griffith resembled facially). Working a scam in the same layout is Sylvia (Priscilla Dean), whom Hawkes has raised as a pickpocket. (In the film's main story following the prologue, Beery is made 15 years older with an impressive makeup job, but his character has not gained any weight.)

Annoyingly and contrivedly, the Donovan siblings have each believed the other to be killed in the police raid. Now they meet -- the audience are aware of their relationship -- yet fail to recognise each other, although Roy feels a 'brotherly' affection for this woman.

The whole gang -- Griffith, Dean, Beery, the mechanical chess-player, Uncle Tom Cobley and all -- hightail it to a very unconvincing New York City. Roy seems to recognise Hawkes as the man who shopped his father, but bides his time. After they pull their big heist, they scarper for a convenient cabin in the woods like the crooks in 'The Unholy Three'. The three lead characters in this movie -- all played by American actors -- are lower-class Londoners who pass themselves off in New York as Italian nobility. It's fortunate that this is a silent movie, so that we're spared what surely would have been ludicrous attempts at double-decker accents. (And anyway, Raymond Griffith had a throat ailment which would end his acting career in talking pictures.) It's deeply annoying that the characters played by Dean and Griffith spend so much time together, in such close quarters, before realising they're brother and sister.

SPOILERS NOW. As this is a Tod Browning film, it's no surprise that a man and woman who are lifelong criminals -- Griffith and Dean, this time round -- experience a total and sincere reformation, and (very contrivedly, but also as usual for Browning) they receive a full pardon from the forces of the law. As in 'The Blackbird', this film strongly implies that a well-bred patrician (in this case, Matt Moore's top-hatted stranger) is innately superior to people of plebeian birth.

I watched this Tod Browning film with a strong sense of deja vu, as so many of its elements strongly echo so many other Browning films. One point in this film's favour is that it has a bit more comedy relief than usual for Browning, including a couple of wisecracking inter-titles. I'll rate 'White Tiger' 7 out of 10, but I wouldn't recommend it as anyone's first introduction to Tod Browning's bizarre world.


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