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Olivia de Havilland,
Hester is bored with Gerald who loves her - bored with the Finley Department store - and bored with Demopolis. She leaves town with a traveling salesman named Bloom and the clothes on her back. They go to New York where she moves up to mistress of Mr. Wheeler and is well cared for. When the gang decides to vacation at Lake Placid, Hester is dropped off at Demopolis to see how the old town looks after four years. She sees Gerald and he thinks she is a successful career woman and he still wants to marry her. But it will never happen so Gerald joins the Army to fight in the Great War. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
Antiquated....even in 1930--and the director MUST have been insane.
The copy of "Back Pay" that is being shown now on TCM is apparently a very truncated version. Over 20 minutes is missing--as some studio types thought this change would make for a better feature. It also is often a sign that a film is in trouble and the studio was desperate to make it more marketable. So, this review is only for this short version.
"Back Pay" starts with one of the most unintentionally funny musical scenes I can recall. Corinne Griffith is singing to her boyfriend but it seriously looks as if she is a zombie!! I have NEVER seen anyone sing with less energy or conviction. Heck, her lips barely even move nor does she even twitch! And, her boyfriend lies there as if he is dead! Seriously--you just have to watch this opening to believe it. Now I know this is an early talking picture--but even by the standards of 1930 it's pretty awful. And this gets me to the single biggest problem that ruins the film. Although I might have expected an early sound film to be stilted and have lousy acting, by 1930 this was NOT a problem in most films. So, had the film come out in 1928 or even 1929, I might have cut the film some slack. However, the director must have either been insane or totally incompetent as the actors (particularly but not exclusively Griffith) had poor delivery and many of the scenes should have been re-shot. Surely any sane director would have noticed the zombie-like delivery at the film's beginning--but this one apparently did not. And, repeatedly, the actors seemed to have little in the way of delivery--and they were allowed to give such lackluster performances. They either talk too fast, too soft or look stilted. As a result, the movie sucks. I know this sounds mean, but it irritated me that Miss Griffith was allowed to give such a bad performance--along with a cast of folks who seemed to have little idea how to act in a talking picture.
I you STILL decide to see this film, a few things to look for apart from Griffith's awful singing is the masseuse who can barely be understood, the scene with her old boyfriend where the actors keep talking over each other's lines as well as when actors inexplicably talk too fast in some scenes. Some might blame the actors, but isn't it the director's job to notice this and re-shoot these awful scenes?!
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