|Index||4 reviews in total|
DEVIL-MAY-CARE was Ramon Novarro's starring talkie debut. Coming off
big hits in 1929 like THE FLYING FLEET and THE PAGAN, Novarro scored
again with this film that MGM billed as the screen's first dramatic
Set during the turmoil of Napoleonic France, Novarro plays a young Bonapartist convicted during the revival of the French monarchy. He escapes the firing squad and hides out in a house where a young noblewoman (Dorothy Jordan) lives. She is a fierce Royalist, and she turns him in but he escapes again.
Later he turns up in the house of an old friend (Marion Harris) where he poses as a footman. When a coach approaches with a visitor, it turns out to be Jordan, who is Harris' young cousin. The two women quietly compete for the attentions of Novarro. The original title for this film was THE BATTLING LADIES but MGM changed it to a more fitting title for a Novarro starrer.
Novarro breezes through his talkie debut with a style and panache. His singing voice is pleasant but his wavering high notes could be the result of early sound technology. Jordan's singing voice is rather shrill. Harris, known as the "queen of the blues," comes off best.
There is an Albertina Rasch ballet sequence that was originally shot in 2-strip Technicolor. It has little to do with the plot.
Fleeing for his life, a young Bonapartist with a
DEVIL-MAY-CARE attitude discovers romantic complications
after hiding in the boudoir of a lovely young lady.
Ramon Novarro made his all-talking picture debut in this romantic comedy, one of Hollywood's very first musicals. MGM's Mexican star adds another role to his long list of ethnic portrayals, this time as a Frenchman. Knowing he had made the successful transition from silents to talkies, he seems to be having a great time with the swashbuckling antics of his character. Exhibiting a considerable amount of mischievous charm, he completely dominates the entire picture.
It is important to remember that this was an extremely early talkie, yet director Sidney Franklin and sound artist Douglas Shearer prove more than capable of tackling the difficulties with the microphone. Indeed, there are times, particularly during the musical scenes, when one is beguiled into believing that sound production provided no impediments whatsoever, so smoothly do the scenes flow. Surely this was an indication of considerable talent behind the camera.
Kudos should also go to cinematographer Merriitt B. Gerstad, who makes beautiful use of shadows, showing the power of black & white photography. This is even further highlighted by the inclusion of one scene filmed in early Technicolor, near the end of the picture.
Novarro's singing voice had been a significant success earlier in 1929 in THE PAGAN. In DEVIL-MAY-CARE he seems to be crooning most of the time, doing full justice to a series of songs by Herbert Stothart & Clifford Grey.
Dorothy Jordan & Marion Harris play the cousins who figure so prominently in Novarro's life. Both are comely and their non-Gaelic accents only occasionally intrude upon their performances. John Miljan is enjoyable as the comic Royalist who pursues Novarro. Movie mavens will recognize an uncredited Lionel Belmore as an inebriated Innkeeper.
Historically speaking, our young hero's elation at the return of the Emperor Napoleon in March of 1815, from 10-month's exile on the island of Elba, was doomed to be short-lived.
Although thousands flocked to join him during his triumphal march to Paris, Napoleon's Hundred Days of glory came to an end on the battlefield of Waterloo, on June 18, 1815, with utter and irreversible defeat at the hands of the British & Prussians. On July 15, 1815, Napoleon's second exile began, this time on the tiny South Atlantic isle of St. Helena. There would be no further escape. Abandoned & alone, Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821, very possibly as a result of arsenic poisoning.
Amusingly escaping a firing squad, handsome French officer Ramon
Novarro (as Armand de Treville) hides out in a young woman's boudoir.
He's a supporter of Napoleon Bonaparte, banished from power by Louis
XVIII in the opening minutes. Royalists continue to chase Mr. Novarro,
who eventually takes refuge as a footman named "Charles" in another
woman's southern château. His political enemies do not stand a chance,
as Mr. Novarro is too clever and agile to be pinned down. He also makes
feminine hearts flutter. In this case, they are Marion Harris (as
Louise) and Dorothy Jordan (as Leonie)...
Although Ms. Jordan gets her heart broken, this time, she will get another chance with Novarro "In Gay Madrid" (1930). Sidney Franklin is patient and careful with the direction. On set, much of the singing and dialogue had to be recorded live. On location, dubbing and action are of fine quality. MGM edited in a Technicolor segment (alas, Novarro does not appear in color). "Devil-May-Care" was the first opportunity for millions to hear Novarro speak in an "All-talking!" motion picture. As is plainly evident, the silent star turned out to almost as loved by the microphone as he was by the camera.
****** Devil-May-Care (12/22/29) Sidney Franklin ~ Ramon Novarro, Marion Harris, Dorothy Jordan, John Miljan
In what must have been the easiest of all the transitions made by silent
stars into talkies, Ramon Novarro, still at the height of his fame,talent
and beauty, leaps into this glossy high budget MGM classic. It's not a
great film, but thanks to Sidney Franklin's excellent direction, the picture
is a lot less static than most early talkies. There are some good action
sequences - including some excellent tracking shots of horse riding - and
the camera and the actors move a lot more than was usual.
It's a period piece - set in Napoleon's France - and Cedric Gibbons usual attention to design detail and Adrian's great costumes make it a joy to watch. The supporting cast is so-so - Dorothy Jordan is cute if unspectacular as the heroine and Marion Harris is quite bad as Louise, and there are too many songs, not to mention a completely gratuitous technicolor dance sequence that seems to have been added as an afterthought (chorus girls dressed as Napoleon and Josephine? with a reflective pool and cascading fountains - was Busby Berkeley in on this?). As usual in early talkies there is also too many sound effects and not enough background music, and a couple of very static chat scenes.
But at its heart the film has Ramon Novarro - charming, energetic, seductive, full of life. The early sequence where he escapes from a firing squad is hilarious. He also sings beautifully. What a shame MGM did not give him more vehicles of this quality (see my review of "In Gay Madrid"). In summary it works well as comedy, a little less well as drama, and least well as musical - but overall a quality fun vehicle for Ramon.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|