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D. David Morin,
John Gilbert in an offbeat and interesting Tod Browning film...
JOHN GILBERT was toward the end of his career as a romantic leading man at the age of 27 in THE SHOW, co-starring once again with his leading lady from THE BIG PARADE, RENEE ADOREE.
*****POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD*****
The story has moments of interest when it deals with Gilbert's role as a circus barker for side shows that attract curious crowds with their freakish overtones. He himself is involved in an act that involves the deft use of trickery when Salome (danced by Adoree) requests his head on a silver platter. The act requires a fake sword to be substituted for the real thing and a trap door that lets him escape the executioner's ax. Meanwhile, Gilbert has arranged to take care of the money entrusted to him by a love-struck girl whose father has been murdered by scheming LIONEL BARRYMORE. For bad guy Gilbert, guarding the money is like taking candy from a baby and doesn't fool his sweetheart, RENEE ADOREE who questions his motives.
LIONEL BARRYMORE is the stage colleague intent on stealing the money for his own selfish goals. His scheme eventually backfires and, for the love of an honest woman, Gilbert returns the stolen money to the police in time for a happy ending.
It's all done in the usual melodramatic style associated with silent films of this period, but the story maintains interest throughout and builds to a satisfying conclusion with Gilbert and Adoree in a final clinch.
Summing up: Not quite as bold and startling in nature as some of Browning's other works, but very watchable. Gilbert is intense as the morally bankrupt anti-hero who is reformed by the love of a good woman. It's not his usual romantic role and he was reportedly not too happy with the assignment. At this point in his career, he and MGM head Louis B. Mayer were not on good terms personally.
Trivia note: Interesting to see an ambulatory Barrymore before arthritis crippled him. The story is not quite strong enough if it's shock appeal you're looking for.
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