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Elaine Hammerstein had a sizable film career in silents. Here she plays
Mary Nolan, a "lily of the alley," a struggling singer/dancer at Dago
Mike's dive. Her boyfriend Jimmy (Theodore von Eltz) waits tables. When
a big Broadway producer (John St. Polis) comes in one night, she goes
into her dance but he never notices her. As he leaves, a crook lifts
his wallet Jimmy see this and lifts the wallet from the crook's pocket.
With cash in hand, he and Mary swank up and go to see the producer.
They are turned away but she catches the eye of the lecherous partner
(Stuart Holmes). Later, after Jimmy is hauled away as a thief, Mary
talks the producer into trying to help but it's too late; he has
He feels sorry for the pretty girl and gives her a part in his big new show. She becomes an overnight star (Jimmy is serving time). Time passes and she's opening in a big new show. Jimmy has gotten out of jail (he's been pardoned). As he waits outside in the alley, Mary agrees to go to Holmes' apartment to a party. She gets drunk and ends up in bed, passed out. Just as Holmes is about to make his move, Jimmy bursts in and there is a big fight. But when Jimmy spies Mary in a negligee (she was dressed by drunken women at the party), he assumes and worst and runs away.
More time passes and she's still a big star on Broadway. Jimmy is in the audience and ready to start anew but alas, he is too late: Mary has married her producer (St. Polis). The closing shot shows her sobbing into her wedding gown as Jimmy is now lost to her.
The musical numbers are pretty much a bust without real music. The dancing consists mostly of high kicks. Yet Hammserstein is quite beautiful, a cross between Clara Bow and Barbara LaMarr, and a decent actress. The rest of the cast is solid.
Elaine Hammerstein, part of the great theatrical family of producers
and lyricists was a leading star on Broadway and -- in this period -- a
leading actress in the films. Here in this backstage musical melodrama,
she's a spunky New York Irish girl who makes her way up to star in a
Broadway musical, but of course, she loves fellow New York Irish Teddy
von Eltz. It's a full-dress melodrama co-written by Mrs. Fanny Hatton
-- and, despite a few nice touches by director -- later MGM producer --
Hunt Stromberg, it doesn't work. It's hard to do musical numbers in
silent pictures, although some people could manage -- Robert Z. Leonard
could manage and von Stroheim's MERRY WIDOW works beautifully.
However, the musical numbers, which should be set-pieces of beauty to contrast with the tawdriness of the rest of the melodrama, don't really come off. Miss Hammerstein looks best posing in the intermediate two-shots -- she is very charming but doesn't seem to know how to play to the camera, and the story line is fairly standard. Even the Demille-type party scene looks a little tired.
While this is by no means a bad movie, it lacks anything to make it great. Worth a look. but missing it won't ruin your life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...gives you a hint of the juicy titles but honestly what a find!!
Elaine Hammerstein was originally snapped up for films because of her
illustrious name - who cared whether she could act or not!! She proved
very popular with the public and L.J. Selznik, who had also poached
Clara Kimball Young, was waiting to sign Elaine up. She was a
refreshing personality who specialized in society dramas or movies
where she could portray high born types who invariably fall on hard
times. This movie pairs her with Theodore von Eltz who without his
moustache looks a dead ringer for Edmond Lowe.
Elaine stars as Mary Nolan a "lily of the alley" according to the titles and von Eltz is Jimmy her childhood sweetheart whose one aim in life is to make her happy. It's all here - the villain who tries to lure Mary away from the honky tonk and the Broadway producer, Kelsey, who can't seem to see Mary's beauty or talent. When Jimmy finds Kelsey's dropped wallet, instead of turning it in, he convinces Mary to use some of the money to doll up and set herself up to advantage when she crashes the Great White Way. She convinces Jimmy to give himself up with the result that he goes to prison but Kelsey, full of remorse, puts Mary into a show - "bare knees and nimble feet working bravely under a tireless task master"!!! - and within the year she is the toast of Broadway!!
Jimmy is paroled in time for her opening night and together they look to a rosy future but who's that??? It's Kelsey's womanizing partner Phil Andrews who never gives up and finally co-erces Mary to a lingerie party (all the Broadway movies I've seen, I've never witnessed a lingerie party!!!). All the girls find teddies and camisoles on their place mats and the highlight of the party is chorus girls parading up and down the table, showing off the latest in underwear - 1925 style!! The champagne goes to Mary's head, Jimmy bursts in, then bursts out for good it seems but is drawn back from exile for yet another opening night, just in time to find her married to Kelsey. Like Gloria in "Glorifying the American Girl", Mary is left to ponder the question - "Why can't I have success and happiness"??
Even though it was one of the very few films directed by Hunt Stromberg under his own company, the company as a whole seemed to specialize in westerns so the picture quality is not great. Elaine is adorable and makes me wish there were more of her films available. Ernest Belcher, at the time one of America's top dancing instructors, plays the dancing master who puts the chorus cuties through their paces.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The noted producer Hunt Stromberg directed only four feature films (plus nine shorts). This is the last of the features and a very accomplished piece of work it is too. In fact, Stromberg makes this routine story so eye-catching and so engrossing, one wonders why he gave directing away. Not only does he draw fine performances from all his players, but he conjures up both the Bowery and Broadway atmosphere extremely well, putting this dime-novel story across with such assurance and such intensity that a viewer keeps his eyes glued to the screen despite the poor quality of the print under review. (I must admit that Alpha have done their best with it and have supplied a very effective music score that is admirably right in period). No doubt Stromberg was assisted in his atmospheric endeavors by one of Hollywood's all-time great cameramen, Sol Polito, who at this stage of his noteworthy career had already chalked up nearly fifty films as director of photography! Art director Charles Cadwallader also deserves commendation for his efforts. His work here is far superior to his reasonably realistic but not particularly attractive nor distinctive sets for his first film, Sherlock Holmes (1922). All told, a movie not to be missed!
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