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William Powell plays William Foster, a slick attorney who stays within the law, but specializes in representing crooks and shady characters. He's adept at keeping them out of jail, winning ... See full summary »
A young couple marries in secret. Judy's afraid her parents won't approve of Dick and she'll lose her generous allowance. Her parents bring her home from the city where she's been studying ... See full summary »
The soundtrack is dubbed on to an already finished film. The actors' voices say the words but are just a little off, sometimes speaking too fast or slow (sometimes in the same scene) to perfectly match their onscreen selves' mouth movements. Sound effects also can be similarly affected. It's obviously a talkie, and is definitely not a case of an out-of-synch track. It's a re-do, a very strange and apparently unique happenstance. See more »
A Predictable, Technically Substandard "Dance Hall"
I can't bring an expert historian's perspective on 1929's "Dance Hall", but I can speculate some. It must have been among the first batch of talkies produced by RKO, but clearly doesn't have the production values of a "Rio Rita".
In fact, the TCM print demonstrates clear issues with sound and picture sync. It doesn't seem to me that this was ever intended as a silent, nevertheless the entire soundtrack seems to have been dubbed in by the actors after the fact. One could speculate whether this was done because of technical failures or limitations at the time of filming or for budgetary reasons, but it creates a jarring effect that will turn some viewers off immediately. It does seem though, that this could be corrected through restoration work, but who's going to put up the money for something like that?
As for the film itself, it's a fairly paint-by-numbers love triangle set in the world of the dance hall. Arthur Lake seems born to play these naive lovelorn 20-something roles, and while we're supposed to identify with and root for him, it's hard not to also want to slap him upside the head a few times as well, viewing the film through 2013 eyes.
Visually, the film is somewhat ahead of many other 1929 productions in that it keeps its characters moving and mostly avoids the interminable stagy scenes and long pauses characteristic of the period.
It is painfully obvious where the film is going at any given moment, and anyone who's seen just a few movies of this age won't have too much trouble predicting the next scene at any given time. It also has that hallmark of the era, the oddly placed comic relief character, who in this case shows up for his biggest laugh during arguably the dramatic crescendo of the film.
All in all, a middling melodrama that is somewhat more visually interesting than many of its 1929 cohorts, plagued by issues with the sound technology used, which will turn off many but be tolerated by others.
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