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Not bad if you realize it's Paramounts very first talking picture
Of course, this film is going to be of interest primarily to film history buffs and fans of early sound film, but it is not so static and halting in speech as many early talkies were.
Paramount's high production values are in full bloom here, and William Powell, in his first talking role, does a pretty good job of playing the dissolute playboy, Philip Voaze, presumed killed in action during World War I. Evelyn Brent plays Deborah Kane, the rejected girlfriend who spots Philip at his own memorial service. It's hard to believe such an attractive woman would still be carrying a torch for someone who threw her over so many years before. After tracking Philip down, Deborah still evokes no emotion from him - he wants no part of her. However, Deborah is a vengeful woman and she blames Faith, the girl that Philip dumped her for and married before the war began, for her troubles.
Deborah also realizes that she has a blackmail worthy scandal in the fact that Faith is now married to a prominent surgeon, Sir John Marlay (Clive Brook). This makes Faith a bigamist. What I could never figure out is why the letters written between Faith and Philip were such hot items in this blackmail scheme. They were written before Philip went to war and before she ever met and married Dr. Marlay and ,after all, Philip had been pronounced legally dead years before.
At any rate, Faith is shortly thereafter confronted by the seething rejected mistress who delights in tormenting her, and Deborah requests the sum of five hundred pounds at frequent intervals or else she will sell her letters and story to the newspapers. At first Faith comes up with the money, but when she winds up short she finally tells everything to her husband. Philip also finds out about the blackmail. 24 hours later Deborah is discovered dead from poison found almost exclusively in a doctor's possession. Faith, Sir John, and Philip have all had access to this concoction. The question is, who did it? The story is pretty good and well acted by all of the players. There are a few gestures that appear to be hold-overs from the silents such as someone giving a speech, waiting a few seconds, and then burying their head in their hands. However, all in all, this is a worthy first effort at sound film by Paramount. The cinematography was very well done with frequent cross-cutting between static scenes that give the illusion of movement. The video is in pretty good shape for a 1928 film, but the sound is rather poor through the first third of the film. One aspect that was really rather poorly done was William Powell's makeup. He plays a man with a degenerative heart condition that is slowly killing him. To make him appear increasingly sick, makeup is applied that has more of the effect of making him look like some kind of silent film villain than someone who is desperately ill. By the film's conclusion his face is almost completely white and he has dark circles painted on under his eyes.
Recommended for students of early sound film and fans of William Powell, of which I am both.
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