A maid who works for a traveling theatrical troupe wants desperately to be an actress, and manages to get some small roles in the company's productions, but is determined to do anything she... See full summary »
A maid who works for a traveling theatrical troupe wants desperately to be an actress, and manages to get some small roles in the company's productions, but is determined to do anything she can to show that she deserves a shot at the big time. Written by
Sadly forgotten superstar in hilarious yet poignant role,
Beatrice Lillie was totally captivating.
I have just finished watching this movie for the first time on TCM. I loved it. The realistic depiction of life in a traveling troupe of actors is great. The filming was light years beyond my expectations for a 1926 film. The cast is really great. But what makes the movie is the performance of the fabulous Beatrice Lillie, unknown to me before now.
The plot is thin, but provides enough tension through a couple of subplots to maintain interest at a high level. However, Ms. Lillie glows with such beauty, charm and charisma that she could easily maintain your interest through a much lesser film. Her acting style will knock you out. Perhaps due to her stage training, her acting is so nuanced and subtle you might think that she was an actress from the last half of the 20th century instead of the first half. I roared with laughter, and yet I felt her character's yearning - both for the love of her life and for the elusive acting opportunity. When life hands her the great opportunity that the stage has denied, she seizes it with abandon. Here the slapstick is hilarious and never clichéd. Yet this film is much more than slapstick. Other humor and irony abound.
But the film is not just a comedy, either. Several scenes are not comical, but serve to advance what is a dramatic plot underlying the comedy. And Ms. Lillie shows a wide range of emotions. While the ending may not fulfill some viewer's wishes, it is also far from the pat ending that might be expected in a pure comedy. Even though it strikes a different emotional chord from the comic character of most of the film, clear ground work has been laid for the ending; so it is not really unpredictable or a great plot twist. I suspect audiences in 1926 would have preferred a pat ending, but modern movie-goers are more likely to embrace this one.
The greatest of clowns, such as Chaplin, give us characters that are not merely funny, but also are filled with pathos. Beatrice Lillie has this gift. She shows us the soul of her comic character so that we see her longings and disappointments - her angst. That is why we root for her poor troupe flunky, are delighted by this wonderful gem of a movie, and find ourselves feeling very ambivalent about the ending. I feel blessed for having finally been introduced to this incredible actress, and I regret that she did not leave a legacy of many more films for us to enjoy today.
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