0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Skip the movie; watch the nightclub.
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
5 April 2010
Despite its portentous title, 'Behold This Woman' is one more Hollywood
story about Hollywood: more inaccurate than usual, but with some
Irene Rich stars as Louise Maurel, a movie star ... although the name
'Louise Maurel' doesn't have much star quality. She's engaged to
millionaire playboy Eugene de Seyre. While I Steenbecked this silent
film, I was wishing that it would briefly go talkie so that I could
find out how de Seyre pronounces his name.
While jaunting through a rural area in her roadster, Louise's car
breaks down near the shack of a couple of men cried the Strangeways,
who don't seem concerned that they have the same name as a prison in
Britain. These would be old Stephen Strangeway and much younger John
Strangeway. The latter is played by one Charles A. Post, who's a
revelation to me. He's a big burly man with a heavy beard, which
remains incongruously well-groomed for much of this movie. The title
cards identify John Strangeway as a 'hillman', a word I've never
encountered before. Is a hillman the same as a hillbilly? Is a hillman
sort of like a mountain man at a lower altitude? I couldn't accept that
any rural region within a short drive of 1924 Los Angeles is bucolic
enough to produce people like this.
Louise is attracted to John, and she takes him to a party at a posh
Hollywood nightclub. (More about this later.) Eugene sees the couple,
and he becomes jealous. He pays Madame Calavera (no relation to the
celebrated jumping frog) to seduce John. But then Eugene becomes
disenchanted, so he decides to marry Sophie: a convenient jazz baby
with cupid's-bow lips. That's where I lost interest
This movie says nothing at all about the movie industry in 1924 but
rather a lot about Hollywood's social life ... and that's this film's
chief merit. The nightclub scenes were filmed at Cafe Petroushka, a
swank club in Hollywood Boulevard which had opened only a few months
earlier. The club's manager was allegedly a Russian princess who had
fled the revolution, and the chef had purportedly prepared meals for
Czar Nicholas. Merely for its nightclub sequences, this film has some
historic importance. Some of the nightclub interiors are astonishing;
clearly far too elaborate to be a movie set. Also, the minister who
presides at a wedding in this movie is (or rather, was) apparently an
actual clergyman who performed many Hollywood marriage ceremonies..
Eugene de Seyre is played by Harry Myers, a gifted comedian now
remembered only for playing the drunken millionaire in Chaplin's 'City
Lights'. (Like Chaplin, Myers died on Christmas Day, though not in the
same year.) Madame Calavera is portrayed by Rosemary Theby, a
silent-film actress now quite forgotten. She played W.C. Fields's wife
in 'The Fatal Glass of Beer', but was not memorable in that role. Theby
was gaunt, flat-chested, beak-nosed: she was not traditionally sexy, so
it's intriguing to see her here in a role where she's required to vamp
an extremely virile man.
In real life, Myers and Theby were a long-time married couple. They
show real chemistry in their scenes together here, even though their
characters in this film aren't attracted to each other. Watching them
together here makes me want to see Myers and Theby teamed as lovers or
a married couple on screen.
Charles A. Post as the hillman is stolid and awkward, but that might be
part of his portrayal as a hick from the sticks in swank society. He
brings an underplayed dignity and virility to his scenes, making me
want to see him in other roles to gauge his range as an actor.
At this point in her career, Irene Rich was cast mostly in virtuous
roles, so it's interesting to see her here as a woman of somewhat loose
morals yet who's not an outright villain. I'm annoyed that her
character's job as a movie star is just so much window dressing for a
movie that's really not about movies.
The direction by J. Stuart Blackton is weak: he misses several
opportunities, makes awkward shot decisions, and paces the action
badly. This film was scripted by his wife: frankly, the script's not
very good, and I can't help wondering if Blackton would have used it if
he wasn't sleeping with the writer.
The elaborate nightclub scenes in 'Behold This Woman' are in stark
contrast to the low production budget for the rest of this movie: a
regrettable situation, given that the story is supposed to be about
movie stars and millionaires.
As a film, 'Behold This Woman' is implausible and poorly made, yet it's
still of interest because of the scenes at Club Petroushka, as well as
for Charles A. Post's performance, and for the screen chemistry between
Myers and Theby. My rating for this one is 6 out of 10.
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