|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Index||13 reviews in total|
8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A genuine masterpiece., 23 November 2001
Author: David Atfield (email@example.com) from Canberra, Australia
THE MATINEE IDOL is a superb comedy, and much much more. In a way that
suggests his later masterpieces, Frank Capra masterfully mixes comedy and
drama in a unique way. And the result is the creation of genuinely real
characters in a very real world - a world that can be loving and
A bunch of Broadway theatre producers stumble on a country theatrical troupe, who are really quite bad. So they decide to put the troupe into a Broadway show - so that they can be laughed at by the sophisticated New York audience. The results are funny for us too, but Capra manages to make us feel for the players as they work their hearts out to stop the audience laughing at their drama. Stunning stuff.
And the magnificent performance of Bessie Love is key to the success of this comic-tragic feel. Johnnie Walker is also excellent as the Broadway star who falls in love with her. And Capra displays, in this early film, the attention to detail and an understanding of humanity that would characterise all his later work. Just watch the country audience - the characters he captures so beautifully without being condescending. They might be funny people, but they are also real. Of course we can see this in the work he did with Harry Langdon too.
Capra was certainly a master - and this wonderful silent film is a testimony to his genius. Make sure you see it.
8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
A long-lost treasure, lovingly restored!, 20 February 2007
A lightweight but simply charming and absolutely delightful fairy tale,
most ingratiatingly acted by all concerned, beautifully photographed,
very cleverly scripted and most astutely directed. It's surprising that
personable Johnnie Walker didn't go on to a big career in talkies.
Bessie, of course, is simply captivating.
Some carping critics have complained that the hick actors in the story were cruelly treated. On the contrary, they were handled like royalty. All the actors I know (and I've known lots of actors in my time) would quickly have appropriated the plaudits of the crowd as a fitting reflection of their deliberate art. I remember Cecil Kellaway after a preview bemoaning to the manager that his performance was not supposed to be funny and that the audience had laughed in all the wrong places. But as moviegoers started to come out of the theater and people spied him talking to the manager, suddenly he was surrounded by a cheering crowd with everyone congratulating him on his superbly comic performance. Did Cecil try to reason with his fans and tell them they were all wrong? No fear! On the contrary, he swelled with pride and heartily thanked them for their perspicacity and their keen appreciation of his comic endeavors.
5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
"What are you fools laughing at?", 1 October 2009
Author: Steffi_P from Ruritania
With Al Jolson at the height of his popularity and Warner Brothers's
the Jazz Singer having been the highest grossing film of 1927, it was
inevitable that the other studios would churn out a few vehicles for
their own Jolson-esquire characters. But while the Jazz Singer was a
sensation for its being the first part-talkie, the Matinée Idol lacks
the singing voice of its star (the now obscure Johnnie Walker), and has
to make do with just his visual antics.
The Matinée Idol was an early directorial assignment for the renowned Frank Capra. Capra's first couple of full-length features for Harry Langdon reveal a very showy, excessive style, which made Langdon's already mediocre slapstick almost unwatchable. A couple of pictures later and Capra has learnt to ease off a bit, with some fairly regular and decent camera-work. However he still shows no aptitude for shooting physical comedy. The longest comic routine - the stage performance - seems to have a few good gags, but it's all cut up into lots of different camera angles, and there is no chance for the comedy to flow naturally from the performances. Theoretically, a good portion of the jokes are in the intertitles, but there are far too many of these and none of them is especially funny.
Of course, Capra would eventually mature into a fine dramatic and romantic director, and you can see him beginning to develop in this respect. He cuts down the line, closing in on Walker and Bessie love in the scene where she first lays eyes on him in his Don Wilson get up, neatly establishing the wordless connection between them. Then there is some beautiful and tender framing of the couple in their scene together at the masquerade, which is all very reminiscent of the love scenes in Capra's early 30s output.
Johnnie Walker, Columbia's answer to Al Jolson, is not an exceptional talent. His comic timing is good but there is nothing to make him stand out. Bessie Love on the other hand is a pretty good actress, with a very expressive face. Kudos to her for getting involved with the physical comedy and losing her dignity with the boys. There's also a good role for Lionel Belmore, that rotund and jolly character actor who seems to turn up in absolutely everything in the late 20s and early 30s.
The Matinée Idol is one of those pictures that has gained more than its fair share of attention thanks to its director later having made a handful of masterpieces. In and of itself it is a very uninteresting piece, and like most of Capra's work before he met screenwriter Robert Riskin, a disappointment.
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of the great romantic comedies of the silent era is a well kept secret, 24 October 2009
Author: calvinnme from United States
"The Matinée Idol" is an unremembered gem of a silent film. Columbia
was still a poverty row studio in 1928, but this production is every
bit as polished as anything that MGM or Paramount would have put out at
the time. The story revolves around the star of a Broadway Revue, Don
Wilson (Johnnie Walker), who is a black-face comic. The management of
the theater thinks that Don has been working too hard, so they advise a
rest in the country. The group drives out to a small town where their
car breaks down. The whole town - including the mechanic - are all at
the "show" - the most recent play by the Bolivar players, the star of
which is Ginger Bolivar (Bessie Love). Don is just looking for the
mechanic when he stumbles into an audition for a bit part involving a
love scene with Ginger. He gets the part because the other applicants
are just so bad. The show is just terrible, but the town thinks it is
terrific as do the Bolivar players. The show is a Civil War drama - or
at least it's supposed to be. Instead it turns out to be more like the
play that Buster Keaton invaded in "Spite Marriage", except here
everyone is playing Keaton. The fact that the Bolivars are playing it
straight with unintentionally hilarious results gives our urban
visitors ideas on a way to enliven their New York revue at the expense
of the Bolivars' dignity.
Bessie Love gives the same perky performance here that she always does, but at this point in her career she is on the way out since the age of 30 was a magic number for actresses at that time. The coming of sound gives her career about a two year revival as she stars in "The Broadway Melody of 1929" and several other musicals in 1929 and 1930. When the early musicals fall out of favor with the Depression-era public Bessie is back on the poverty row circuit once again, leaving films pretty much altogether from 1931 until World War II.
As for leading man Johnnie Walker, this was pretty much his first and last hurrah in both silent and talking pictures. He had supporting roles before and after this one, but it was his only starring one. This is surprising since he is so engaging here.
This film is one of the best of the silent romantic comedies that I've seen. It certainly has that Frank Capra "feel-good" touch about it, even at this early stage of his directing career.
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Johnnie Walker Black and White, 3 January 2010
Author: wes-connors from Earth
Broadway "black-face" star Johnnie Walker (as Don Wilson) leaves the
hustle-bustle of the "Great White Way" for a vacation in the country.
On a lark, he decides to join a local acting troupe (calling himself
"Harry Mann"), and have some fun with the players - especially
beautiful Bessie Love (as Ginger Bolivar). Ms. Love is the repertory
company's leading lady, and daughter of producer/director Colonel
Lionel Belmore (as Jasper Bolivar). Love also handles human resources,
and hires Walker to perform with the group.
Walker's first part is in a Civil War drama, which plays so badly the audience erupts in hoots of laughter. Although they looked to be fully capable of bombing on their own, Love blames Walker for the flop, and fires him. But, Walker's erstwhile producer, Ernest Hilliard (as Arnold Wingate), thought the play was a hilarious comedy, and wants to hire the players for a Broadway show - with Walker, of course. Love, still believing in her dramatic hit potential, hires Walker back. And so, the stage is set for romance and deception
That this long lost Frank Capra-directed film was found, and restored, is a cause for celebration - but, don't expect anything remotely approaching "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). It's about as good as a television sitcom (and, many used this plot). The "black-face" routine (which would have helped this film remain unseen during the time it was lost) is of the inoffensive Al Jolson sort. Admittedly, this is an arguable point - but, you can see the difference in this film - it's caricature (compare Walker's with David Mir's portrayal).
Walker (fresh from Capra's "So This Is Love?") and Love (on her way to "The Broadway Melody") are a charming couple. Capra directs with a flair exceeding what was expected at the time. The restoration of "The Matinée Idol" was extraordinary, and the movie looks great. Reportedly, some of the film deterioration was so bad, the restorers used original production stills to digitally restore background detail. The results are amazing, and bode well for the future of film preservation. Hopefully, there will be many more discoveries.
***** The Matinée Idol (3/14/28) Frank Capra ~ Johnnie Walker, Bessie Love, Lionel Belmore, Ernest Hilliard
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
"Waiting for Guffman": The Silent Years, 1 June 2007
Author: Poseidon-3 from Cincinnati, OH
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A long-hidden masterpiece, thought lost for decades, was finally unearthed and given a spit and polish. Walker plays a Broadway star, known for his blackface routines (and clearly inspired by Al Jolson, even having a name with a similar ring to it - Don Wilson.) As his newest show is about to open, he heads out to the country with three of his theatre pals for a bit of rest and relaxation. When the car breaks down, he pulls it into the service garage of a small town that is currently welcoming the presence of a tent & truck theatre troupe. The garage attendant is off to see the show, a Civil War melodrama, so Walker goes over to locate him and winds up IN the show when one of the actors quits in a huff! While Walker's sophisticated friends watch from the audience, gasping at the quaint ineptitude of the production, Walker makes his debut as a wounded soldier who has one line, "I love you" before croaking in the arms of the troupe's leading lady and leader, in general, Love. On a lark, Walker and his pals decide to bring the entire company to New York as an addition to their show, feeling the unintentional comedy of it is too pronounced to keep a secret to the rest of the world. Walker greets the theatre company at his Broadway playhouse in blackface, so they don't realize that he is the same sap who came on and did his dying soldier bit in their opus. However, with Walker beginning to fall for Love and with him beginning to like the fellow performers of the dreadful play, he begins to wonder if the whole enterprise isn't just a bit too cruel. Walker is a very handsome and appealing leading man. It's surprising that his career didn't take off with the advent of sound, though he did die at a fairly young age. Love is extraordinary, displaying spunk and affection and heartache in varying doses. Belmore plays her father, the author of the play, and provides a nice touch of pathos as he realizes that his piece of work is inspiring the wrong reaction. Mir plays a fey, fruity actor who essays the villainous roles of the play with a high, feminine voice! Several aspects of this production date it greatly, at least from a sociological perspective. One is the use of blackface, common and prevalent then, but considered taboo today (unless it is black performers playing white as has been done in several contemporary movies, most recently "White Chicks".) The other is the depiction of the gay character Mir plays. He has all the clichéd trimmings and is mocked by a burly stagehand. These qualities do not and should not detract from the overall charm, delightfulness and romance of this almost fable-like movie. The photography is sensational, no doubt enhanced by the recent restoration, though the archivists claim to have removed only foreign matter from the negatives and have left any original defects in the print alone. For a film around eight decades old, it is surprisingly accessible and entertaining. It's brief running time helps, but it's the endearing performances and the sure-handed direction that really put it across. Director Capra (who would go on to a legendary career behind the camera in sound films) lovingly crafted a sweet and alternately amusing and touching film. Though there are really only five notable characters to speak of, the film is jammed with many unique and interesting others, most notably in the audience of the original tent show. The type of people depicted here are long gone and never to be seen again. The film doesn't skimp on accoutrements either, featuring a sizable costume party with striking outfits on display. It's a simple, charming piece of film-making, but is frequently funny and occasionally touching.
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Capra Brings Comedy, Pathos, And Romance To The Screen, 25 May 2009
Author: CitizenCaine from Las Vegas, Nevada
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Frank Capra's The Matinée Idol, a film long thought lost, has been restored to its silent glory. It's perhaps lacking a few minutes yet, but it serves as a testament to Capra's genius as a filmmaker. It showcases three of the four qualities that later became commonplace in all Capra's films: comedy, pathos, and romance. Drama would be the fourth. Bessie Love is simply ingratiating as the leader of a small town theatrical troupe. She's equally good at displaying anger as well as sentiment. Johnnie Walker, as the big time Broadway idol/heel, is also good as the actor thrust into the spotlight so to speak in the small town production of an old Civil War chestnut. Lionel Belmore plays Bessie's father, heartbroken because of the exploitation that occurs of his daughter and her acting troupe. While viewers may have seen the plot many times before, few directors besides Capra could still make it fresh and entertaining. Capra provides the proper blend of comedy, pathos, and to a lesser extent romance in this fun-filled farce from the late silent and early sound era. Walker's black-face act, a la Al Jolson, and the treatment of the effeminate actor who plays a villain in the acting troupe's play may raise more than a few eyebrows. The film's a little slow-going at first but picks up significantly when Walker and his big city pals arrive on the scene. **1/2 of 4 stars.
5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Amusing Early Capra Silent, 15 December 2004
Author: dglink from Alexandria, VA
If this were not an early silent effort by master director Frank Capra, "The Matinée Idol" would likely have remained a lost film. However, this mildly amusing film has been found and restored, and it is well worth seeing to note how deft a director Capra was in his silent works. Led by an attractive pair of leads, Bessie Love and Johnny Walker, the familiar device of a bad stage play getting even worse during an inept performance is used to good effect here (actually used twice) and offers a few chuckles even to those who have seen this done to death in later films from "Auntie Mame" to "Noises Off." Unfortunately, as with many Capra films, there is a bitter aftertaste that lingers in the viewer's mind when the film is over. Using an honest effort by naive "country folks" as the object of amusement for "sophisticated" Broadway audiences is a cruel idea and forms the crux of the plot. Also, Capra has cast the lead actor as a black-face entertainer, which will make some viewers uncomfortable or even appalled, and Capra uses a gay "sissie" stereotype who is the object of other characters' derision, which is even more offensive to contemporary viewers. Although another use of black-face in a Capra film does not come to mind, he was not above using the "sissie" stereotype again, and it reappeared as the Edward Everett Horton character in "Lost Horizon." However, if one can overlook the dated plot and negative stereotyping, "The Matinée Idol" provides an hour of amusement and a peek at the formative years of a great film director.
The Capra Touch, 16 February 2012
Author: misspaddylee from Toronto, Ontario
"The Matinée Idol" is a silent drama/comedy/romance set with an
intriguing backstage setting. The film stars the wonderful Bessie Love
as the daughter and leading lady in a family of troupers. A very
likable Johnnie Walker co-stars as a successful actor taken with Miss
Love. Consequently he takes up with the small town thespians, throwing
himself into their sincere, yet corny theatrics.
When the troupe bring their melodrama to the big town and face scorn from the critics and sophisticated audiences, romance is there to ease the sting of rejection. "The Matinée Idol" is a delight, filled with director Frank Capra's insights and affection for all types of people.
Bessie Love is Just Marvellous, 12 February 2011
Author: kidboots from Australia
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bessie Love was never a huge star. Her biggest success was when she was
rediscovered for the talkies and proved what a super actress she was in
"The Broadway Melody". 1930 was a very productive year for her - she
appeared in 5 movies but then her "rediscovery" finished and she
eventually moved to England. In 1928, however, she found herself in a
studio "no man's land" - Columbia - before they became a studio to be
reckoned with and just after they had shed their "Corned Beef and
Cabbage" nickname. As Harry Cohn said, they were only able to get stars
who were on their way up or on their way down!! But 1928 marked the
beginning of Columbia's association with Frank Capra. He had just
directed "That Certain Thing" for them and it was one of their most
successful films to that date. So Bessie Love was lucky to be directed
by Frank Capra or this movie may have been forgotten, which would have
been a pity as it is really good.
Don Wilson (Johnnie Walker) is a top "black face" comedian on Broadway and a matinée idol, who drives to the country for the weekend to escape his adoring fans!!! Car trouble causes him to visit Bolivar's Players and before he knows it he has a small part in their current play. Fiesty Ginger (Bessie Love) doesn't know him from Adam but he is the most likely candidate from the bad bunch who have lined up for an audition behind the tent - Don is only looking for a mechanic!!!
Of course he treats the whole thing as a joke - it is a civil war melodrama, complete with fake snow, actors missing their cues and a set that looks suspiciously like the set Buster Keaton destroyed in "Spite Marriage" (1929)(Perhaps MGM borrowed it from Columbia)!!! His friends in the audience think it would be a scream on Broadway but when the big night arrives Don has had a change of heart. He has fallen in love with Ginger and can't bear to see her heart broken for just a few cheap laughs. The play brings the house down - but not in the way the unsuspecting players were expecting. Ginger tries to put a positive spin on it to her father, who has a cold and so could not participate - but he was in the audience and the laughter cut him to the heart.
Bessie Love is just marvellous and displays the same feistiness that made her such a hit in "The Broadway Melody". Contrary to some reviewers, I can't find any evidence that Johnnie Walker was a Broadway "black face" comedian. His movie career petered out around 1930 and the only Broadway association I can find of his is as the producer and director of two flops (4 and 5 performances each) at the end of the 40s.
|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|