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No one is going to mistake The Squall for a good movie, but it sure is
a memorable one. Once you've witnessed Myrna Loy's performance as Nubi
the hot-blooded gypsy girl you're not likely to forget the experience.
When this film was made the exotically beautiful Miss Loy was still
being cast as foreign vixens, often Asian and usually sinister. She's
certainly an eyeful here. It appears that her skin was darkened and her
hair was curled. In most scenes she's barefoot and wearing little more
than a skirt and a loose-fitting peasant blouse, while in one scene she
wears nothing but a patterned towel. I'm focusing on Miss Loy's
appearance because she is by far the best if not the only reason to
tune in to this antiquated early talkie and to stick with it. You sure
won't be held by the dialog, which is hopeless. In one typical passage,
Nubi gazes out the window at the departing caravan and waxes poetic:
"Always the gypsies, they sing. Weird and sad. When the big sun have
breath of fire that burn, and when the pale moon look from behind cloud
and breathe air cold as death, they sing." Poetic, or what? Lovers of
purple prose will have a field day. I can't help but wonder, however,
if in her later years Miss Loy preferred to forget her involvement with
Like so many early talkies this one was an adaptation of a Broadway success. The stage version opened at the 48th Street Theatre in November of 1926 and ran for over a year. The play provoked a famous episode involving the humorist and theater critic Robert Benchley, who had a well-known aversion to characters who spoke in thick dialect or pidgin English. According to a much-repeated anecdote Mr. Benchley squirmed uncomfortably through the opening portion of this show. The Spanish village setting (which became a village in Hungary for the movie, for some reason) gave the actors license to practice accents with varying degrees of success, but Benchley's patience reached its limit when, during a family dinner sequence, a door burst open and an actress dressed as a gypsy girl dashed into the room shouting "Help! Help! He keel me!" She then threw herself at the feet of the mistress of the household and exclaimed "Me Nubi! Me good girl! Me stay here!" At that point Mr. Benchley rose and announced to his companion: "Me Bobby. Me bad boy. Me go now," and left the theater.
The film version offers numerous examples of unintended humor but never approaches Benchley's level of wit. The melodramatic plot concerns the Lajos family: father Josef, mother Maria, and son Paul, a student at the nearby college. We would consider this prosperous family "upper-middle class" as they are landowners with servants and all the comforts of life, but their comfortable existence is abruptly thrown into turmoil when a gypsy caravan arrives in the village and their home is invaded by, yes, Nubi the nubile gypsy girl. She arrives at their door during the storm of the title-- symbolizing stormy emotions, I daresay. The girl is fleeing an abusive relationship and begs for sanctuary. After considering the matter the Lajos family agrees to hide her from her angry lover, who shows up shortly afterward but is turned away. Nubi becomes a servant in the household. Kindness motivated the family's decision to take her in, but soon enough that conniving little Nubi pays them back by seducing every able-bodied male in the vicinity, starting with the Lajos' servant Peter, then working her way up to son Paul. Nubi breaks up Paul's relationship with his fiancé Irma (played by Loretta Young, still a teenager), causes him to flunk out of school, and then prompts him to buy jewelry for her by stealing the savings of the family's maid Lena (ZaSu Pitts). Lena, for her part, is still mourning the loss of her own fiancé Peter, seduced and tossed aside by Nubi when she turned her attentions to Paul. Ultimately Nubi sets her sights on the patriarch Josef, and I suppose if the running time had been longer she also would've gone after Uncle Dani, Maria, the village priest and God knows who else.
I guess it goes without saying that a scenario like this one easily lends itself to parody, but even so during its first half The Squall exerts the undeniable fascination of a daytime soap: we watch, hypnotized, as the Bad Girl works her spell on the men-folk and wreaks havoc like an irresistible force of nature, almost like-- a storm! Ah-ha, another metaphor! But as the plot machinations grind onward the campy fun fades. During the later scenes we see less of Nubi as the focus switches to the dysfunctional dynamics of the Lajos family, and frankly after a while these people get to be a real drag. The son in particular behaves like an absolute heel, yet the parents never acknowledge this or face up to their own shortcomings; everything, we're told, is the fault of Nubi, that no-good tramp.
The men of the cast are dull. Aside from Miss Loy the only actress who rises to the occasion is ZaSu Pitts, terrific as usual. The mother of the Lajos household is played by Alice Joyce, a longtime silent star who seemed out of her element with speaking roles, and who retired soon after this. Loretta Young's fresh prettiness provides a nice contrast to Nubi's dusky allure, but her line readings are so awkward it's kind of endearing. No, there's only one reason to watch this flick, and that's Nubi herself. I can't think of another actress who could've played this silly role and managed to come off half as well. I'm not an objective observer, however. I have a desperate crush on Myrna Loy and will watch her in anything, even The Squall.
I must say that I watched this film unexpectedly and was quite surprised by the seductive performance of Myrna Loy. I had not seen her in her earlier works, only the later ones, such as "Love Crazy," "The Thin Man," and their later additions, such as "Another Thin Man." To think that she ended her career as the perfect wife and started it as the temptress or villain is hard to believe. The character Nubi was, well, a stereotyped role, but to my satisfaction, she played it with such conviction and beauty. Altogether i thought the plot was a easy one. Men get mixed up and love crazy for the beautiful temptress while leaving their true loves behind in hysteria. I suggest that people see this film because it is a true classic and worth it to see Myrna in her earlier work. :)
This movie has many things going against it. Among these are staginess,
heavy-handed acting, a hackneyed "femme fatale" plot, and a stereotyped
of gypsies. And the story itself raises some questions. Would a family
really keep a servant girl whose main duties seem to be turning off the
lights at night, staying in her room, and seducing every male in sight?
jewelry stores really stay open past midnight especially in early 20th
Yet from a cinematic history point of view, it is an interesting movie. It was one of the first starring features for then 23 year-old Myrna Loy who plays the gypsy girl and then 16 year-old Loretta Young who plays the neglected fiancee. It was also one of the first American efforts by director Alexander Korda, who would go on to later fame as a director and producer, and one of the twilight performances of silent screen star Alice Joyce.
The bottom line is: If you enjoy film history this might be worth watching, but if a good story and good acting are main concerns then take a pass on this one.
This is a tale of a prosperous Hungarian farming family that takes in a
gypsy girl (Myrna Loy as Nubi) who says she has run away from her tribe
and will be beaten by her gypsy husband if reclaimed. They hide her,
take her into their home as a servant, and come to regret that
Although directed by the renowned Alexander Korda, he did a poor job here, possibly not having veto power over the diction coaches in this very early talkie. This is Loretta Young's first talkie and it shows. She is very good at conveying emotion, but she probably is the most wooden member of the cast in speaking her lines. In her next surviving talkie, "Loose Ankles", she has improved tremendously. ZaSu Pitts is endearing, what little we get to see of her. As dizzy and well-meaning as ever as servant girl Lena, she is captivating even under all of those peasant petticoats.
After watching Nubi laze around the house not doing her work, seducing all the men of the house to the point she has the servant man singing a ballad to a bovine, and enticing the son in the house, Paul, to steal Lena's life savings to buy her an expensive necklace you've got to wonder - Why didn't they just throw the dame out? The parents had to have figured that Paul's allowance disappearing and Nubi practically slumping from all of that fancy jewelry she was suddenly wearing had to have some correlation.
I have seen some early talkies that are poorly paced, but this one should hold your interest, if only from the standpoint of watching the clean-up of a multi-vehicle accident from which you cannot turn away. There is one interesting rather precode line spoken by the father to the mother when talking about Nubi carrying on with Paul. The mother believes Paul has stopped paying attention to his fiancée because he is in love with Nubi. Dad is more insightful - "Paul is not interested in love, he's interested in sex!"
Recommended, if only to see how Loretta Young and Myrna Loy started out in talking pictures.
Some of the early talkies survived to become classics. 1929's "The
Squall" is a classic all right, but not in the way it was intended.
Melodramatic in story and acting, today it seems ludicrous,
particularly the casting of Myrna Loy as Nubi, a seductive gypsy.
Imagine Nora Charles breaking up a young couple and driving a young man
to steal. Outrageous! However, as many people know, when Loy first came
to Hollywood, she did quite a few of these exotic seductress roles.
Based on a play, "The Squall" concerns the aforementioned Gypsy who in the film is now in Hungary (Spain in the play) running away from her cruel master and inviting herself into the home of the Lajos family (Richard Tucker and Alice Joyce), basically by appearing at the door. One by one, Nubi seduces the men of the family and the farm talking her pidgin English ("Nubi not bad! Nubi do nothing wrong!") and dropping hints about nice presents. The son in the family, Paul (Carroll Nye) is engaged to the beautiful Irma (Loretta Young) and can't wait to marry her. He loses interest when he meets Nubi.
With the exception of the lovely Alice Joyce, Zasu Pitts as a woman who lives in the household and the stunningly beautiful Loretta Young, the acting is uniformly awful. Loy is stuck with the hallmarks of her character - bad English, whining and hysteria. With her darkened makeup, peasant getup and curly hair, she is not only beautiful but right out of the 1980s - quite modern, though Richard Tucker's putting the back of his hand on his forehead reminds us we're just emerging from the silents.
Robert Osborne on TCM commented that this film is one of his secret pleasures. While it is deliciously bad, it's not deliciously bad enough to sit through again. It's just bad - but a great example of how far we've come and, had someone not picked up on Myrna Loy's sense of humor, how limited her wonderful career might have been.
Squall, The (1929)
* (out of 4)
Extremely bad melodrama should only be viewed if you must see everything that Myrna Loy and Loretta Young appeared in. Set in Hungary, a rich farming family has everything going great until they take in an abused gypsy girl (Loy) who turns out to be sex crazed and starts ruining everyone's relationships including that of the youngest daughter (Young). I'm not sure where to start so I'll just comment that this film is pretty horrid from start to finish but thankfully it's horrid enough to gain a few laughs. Apparently this was also released as a silent and I wouldn't mind watching that version because the performances in this sound edition are quite horrid and it's easy to tell that everyone is acting as if they were in a silent feature. The acting is so over-dramatic and over the top that you can't help but laugh and quite often you'll be scratching your head wondering what they hell everyone is being so dramatic for when it's not even necessary. Loy is incredibly bad in her role of the gypsy girl and I'm going to guess that she's never been worse. Young comes off so-so but then again she isn't acting against anything good. Richard Tucker turns in one of the worst performances I've ever seen and that might be being too nice. The film might be of interest to bad film buffs but otherwise this thing is worthless. It's drags on way too long as well, which doesn't help matters.
Runaway gypsy, Myrna Loy, upsets the household of the well-to-do family
that takes her in.
Of historical interest, but otherwise not much reason to watch. Undoubtedly, the early sound system limitations account for the static acting when dialogue is spoken. However, it can't excuse the declamatory style of speaking. Only Alice Joyce can occasionally speak and act in a more natural fashion. Miss Loy is merely ridiculous as the predatory, scheming wild-child.
Loretta Young has a supporting role only, despite being listed as the co-star. Also, she seems to have a pronounced overbite, presumably corrected later on by her orthodontist.
Into a happy household comes the gypsy girl, played by Myrna Loy. With
her amazingly wild hair and voice that sounds very high-pitched and
weird, it's hard to believe this is Loy!! She bears no similarity
whatsoever to the refined and funny character Nora Charles who she
played in the Thin Man movies. Instead, she overacts so badly that
you'd almost expect her to be in an Ed Wood movie. What a huge
difference a few years made in the quality films she got as well as her
acting ability!! On top of the horrendously silly character, the film
also fails because it just isn't interesting or exciting--just very,
very stagy and stupid. The only thing good about it is the Vitaphone
sound system--making the sound quality of this turkey about the best I
have heard from 1929. Heck, it was even better than most 1930 films, so
the sound technician at least has something to be proud of--all others,
This is a movie that even the host of Turner Classic Movies referred to as a "guilty pleasure" because the movie is so bad! And, after having seen it I disagree...slightly. The movie is simply bad.
A fine example of that time when motion pictures struggled with talk -
here, the microphone is unkind to everyone; if anything, the younger
players are worse off due to overall lack of experience (both on stage
and screen). Though it was not true at the time, the main attraction
herein is Myrna Loy (as Nubi); she plays a gypsy temptress who
symbolically arrives with "The Squall" and manages to attract every man
in sight. Also arousing is beautiful Loretta Young (as Irma). "It's the
fire in my veins," explains main target Carroll Nye (as Paul), "driving
Both Ms. Loy and Ms. Young are pretty bad, which just shows how fortunes can change. Upon release, the biggest name in the generally substantial cast was Alice Joyce (as Maria). Appearing in her first taking film, Ms. Joyce fares a little better, but not to 1929 audiences with high expectations for an admired actress. Improved in a few more films, Joyce nevertheless retired. Also having a good future, director Alexander Korda gets to display a windmill and rain nicely, but can't get the crude production off the ground. The story is also a struggle to take seriously.
*** The Squall (5/9/29) Alexander Korda ~ Myrna Loy, Alice Joyce, Carroll Nye, Loretta Young
I never was a fan of Loy's later films. Frankly, I never found her good looking enough to attract her co-stars. But as a bad girl she excels. See her in Thirteen Women! The dialog direction in The Squall is beyond terrible. On the basis of this example I would never have predicted that Loretta Young would ever become a great actress. The whole film sounded like a bad junior high production. Except for Loy. She is natural, transcending her sometimes awful lines. She is believable among a bunch of seeming amateurs. And sexy. There are few more torrid performances ever put on the screen. Watch The Squall for her performance alone.
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