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Oh, I say! Beastly nuisance, and all that...

3/10
Author: F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
19 December 2009

By Jove, here we are in the stiff-upper-lip precincts of the British Empire. This turgid tale of foiled romance is set in Cairo (Egypt, not Illinois) but most of the action takes place on stagebound interior sets, and the only flavour of Egypt is conveyed in a few bits of set dressing and the artwork on the title cards.

Sir Arthur Little is the new (or rather oldish) British consul to Egypt, and he comes barging down the Nile in Colonel Blimp mode, accompanied by his younger (and prettier) fiancée Violet. (In the original stage play, she was his wife.) Early in the proceedings, they get a visitor in the consulate: none other than Warner Oland, the Swedish actor who spent his entire career playing swarthy Orientals. Here, he's a full-blooded Arab. He darkly mutters a few lines of dialogue about Britain's oppression of the natives. The damned rotter!

Violet (no shrinking violet) meets Ronald Parry, her husband's handsome young secretary, and the two straight away fall in love. But duty and honour require that she marry Sir Arthur. Deucedly inconvenient, and all that.

This movie was produced by Corinne Griffith's personal production company as a star vehicle for her. She goes through every scene in a different elaborate outfit, climaxing in a formal gown for a reception in the consulate. This film constantly lavishes attention on the posh living arrangements of the British in Egypt, clearly taking no interest in the Cairo peasantry. Warner Oland's big scene in the second reel seems to exist solely as foreshadowing for an attempt on the consul's life.

SPOILERS NOW, EH WOT? Handsome Ronald intervenes to save Sir Arthur's life. Then he squares his manly shoulders and falls in love with another woman (younger than Violet) who somehow reminds him of her, thus giving him credit for still loving Violet without stealing her from Sir Arthur. Violet, meanwhile, decides she loves Sir Arthur anyway. If this movie has a moral, it seems to be that honour and duty are more important than love. Dashed nuisance, love. Gad, sir, when I was in Poona... (Exit muttering.)

The single most impressive thing about this movie is the splendid camera work by Hal Rosson, followed by the costumes and lavaliers for Corinne Griffith. The direction is slow and lacklustre throughout, and not abetted by the fact that Miss Griffith shows no discernible acting ability. If Warner Oland's very small role had been bigger, the movie would have been more interesting. My rating: 3 out of 10. Bad show, chaps!

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