Gertrude Lawrence didn't make many movies, and the one that's most widely circulated, "The Glass Menagerie," doesn't show her off to her best advantage. So it's worth seeking out this obscure early Paramount musical to get a glimpse of her at the peak of her powers. As a World War I pickpocket-turned-Army-nurse-turned-cabaret-performer (which will serve as an indication of the loose dramaturgy), she wears clothes marvelously, bats her enormous eyes, oozes energy and idiosyncrasy, and is the center of attention every moment she's on screen, and knows it. She also gets to deliver a whole bouquet of early Cole Porter songs, including the saucy "They All Fall in Love." It's neither great acting nor great singing (nor is she a great beauty), but it's an instantly accessible and engaging personality, and you get to see why she was a star. The story's ridiculous, and it's particularly annoying that her leading man (Walter Petrie?) would be allowed to mistreat her horribly and get off scot-free for it. There's also a wincingly bad comic French accent offered by Charles Ruggles; he's usually an asset, but not here. And the wrap-up includes probably the most convenient arrival of the Armistice in the history of movies. But don't look at it as the clumsy early talkie it is; look at it as a study in star quality.
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