|Index||4 reviews in total|
Neil Hamilton is Emory Yago, the struggling proprietor of a boardwalk
photography shop. Madame Silvera, an adjacent spiritual medium, hires
to fake "spirit photos", and he becomes intrigued with the financial
possibilities of spiritualism. While researching this new business
enterprise, an exhausted and starving chorus girl (Evelyn Brent) collapses
in Emory's shop. He shows kindness, feeding and nurturing her back to
health, and she repays his rescue by picking up the slack at the photo
In spite of the affection Emory and Ellen share, greed overtakes Emory's
heart and his spiritualism racket consumes his thoughts. Ellen will resort
to some trickery of her own to save her relationship and get Emory to "go
An early talker, this film cannot blame its flaws on the new sound technique. Its release near the end of 1929 comes almost a full year into Paramount's talking age. The plot is meandering and direction is slack. Mr. Hamilton gave many fine, full-bodied performances in 1929. Here, his character's motivations are not made clear to the audience, because, I don't believe HE understood them. Evelyn Brent fills the eyes and ears again with PRESENCE, though her lines have plenty of clunk factor. No dazzling special effects to save the finale, either.
Comic relief is supplied by Sammy Bricker playing a sailor. He keeps coming in to be photographed with a different girl throughout the picture. For all the shortcomings, I recommend seeing Evelyn Brent in any of her early talkie roles. She is one of the screen's truly unsung divas.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Good early sound film about a photographer who helps an out of work and
destitute dancer. She helps with the business while he tries to get
into the spiritualism racket where he thinks big money lies.
Better than I thought it would be film works thanks to the leads, Neil Hamilton and Evelyn Brent. The film is also nicely pre-code with some small bits they could never have gotten away with a few years later. It also scores points for not seeming to have been hampered by the limitations of early sound recording.
I enjoyed it enough that I think it's going to be a film I hand off to friends.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't think stars like Evelyn Brent had any choice about the movies
they appeared in, in the early days of the talkies. Most stars (with
the exception of Greta Garbo) were put into talkies early, regardless
of the quality of the movie or the story (usually both were not that
great). In fact I think it was almost a sign of your prestige at the
studio, as to how early you were "thrown in". Clara Bow made "The Wild
Party" in early 1929 - she had been at the peak of her popularity in
1928. Evelyn Brent had made "Interference" in 1928, it was Paramount's
first all talkie and one of the year's most popular films. Brent's
voice recorded well and she was at the peak of her beauty. The films
she made in 1929 alone were very diverse - a comedy, a musical, drawing
room drama and sophisticated crime -she may have thought that in
"talkies" she was able to show off more of her talent. Neil Hamilton
was another star, who, like Conrad Nagel, found his voice in the
In the early days there seemed to be a fascination for seances and spiritualism ("The Thirteenth Chair") and "Darkened Rooms" a taut little thriller really delivered. It also gave Neil Hamilton his best role since "Beau Geste", as the unsympathetic fake spiritualist.
Emory Jago (Neil Hamilton) runs photographic studio but supplements his income by faking pictures of spirits for the medium (Gale Henry) next door. He wants to get into it full time as he feels he has a special "gift" and he also sees it as easy money. When Ellen (Evelyn Brent), a chorus girl, down on her luck (is there any other kind?) comes to his store to have some photos taken, he offers her a job as his assistant. She doesn't like the phoniness of it but falls in with his schemes because she loves him. He targets a wealthy society girl whose fiancé has been killed in an air crash. Joyce (Doris Hill) has already found someone else - Billy (David Newell) who is helping her pick up the pieces. At the seance, Ellen "channels" the spirit of the dead airman and suddenly Billy (who is really a nice guy) is out in the cold as Joyce starts to deal with hidden emotions. Ellen is horrified at the callous way Emory is playing with people's feelings and enlisting the help of an out of work actor friend, she exposes Emory in a very unusual way.
Neil Hamilton did not sound at ease but the script overcame that by Emory's interest in hypnotism - a lot of the time he sounded as though he was trying to hypnotise people. Doris Hill was definitely a WAMPAS Baby victim. She was made a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1929 and started the year as the female star of "The Studio Murder Mystery" - she ended the year as a supporting player of "Darkened Rooms".
Incredibly silly story worth watching if only for the fabulous Evelyn Brent. Neil Hamilton is a photographer hoping to cash in by pretending to be a psychic who can contact dead loved ones. His main target, a society girl, comes off as a completely gullible moron, and Neil Hamilton is hardly a "hero" as a man determined to make it big by being a fraud. You wonder what Evelyn Brent sees in him, and even more so, you wonder how Evelyn Brent stooped so low after her fabulous performances in "Underworld" and "The Last Command".
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