Bob Naughton and Eddie Connolly are identical-twin brothers that were separated in infancy. Bob is raised by a rich lawyer, has all the advantages, but is a drunk with no moral character. ...
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Bob Naughton and Eddie Connolly are identical-twin brothers that were separated in infancy. Bob is raised by a rich lawyer, has all the advantages, but is a drunk with no moral character. Eddie is a pianist in a speak-easy but a man of high character. Bob commits a murder and Eddie is blamed and faces life in prison. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Bert Lytell was an extremely popular matinee idol in silent films, whose career dwindled rapidly in the talkie era. "Brothers" might be one reason why ... or maybe TWO reasons, as Lytell plays a dual role. This hokey story was based on a play, which must have been difficult to stage as it required two actors to play lookalikes.
Before the main story begins: years ago, a set of identical twin boys were given up for adoption at birth. Adopted separately, they were raised to adulthood with no knowledge of each other's existence. One of them is now Bob Norton, a wealthy and respected attorney who is secretly a drunken playboy and a total shyster. The other twin is Eddie Connolly, poor but honest, a regular fella who plays piano in a speakeasy. "Brothers" employs the same dodgy premise used by Mark Twain in "Puddin'head Wilson": if two identical boys are raised in opposite environments - one in wealth, the other in poverty - the rich boy will grow up dishonest and dissipated, and the poor boy will grow up honest and industrious. Oh, sure.
Rich Bob and poor Eddie are identical twins, but we can tell them apart because Bob has a moustache and wears glasses (he must have poor eyesight from counting all his money) whilst Eddie speaks in what's apparently meant to be an Irish brogue. (Where was he raised?) Also, Eddie is unattached but Bob has a fiancee named Norma (played by Dorothy Sebastian, who's ostensibly very glamorous here ... but she isn't, much). Whenever both twins are onscreen in the same shot, the set is always lit from the sides to avoid casting shadows during Bert Lytell's double exposure: this was necessary for the crude special effects of 1930, but it's a distracting device which calls attention to the crude gimmickry of the film's plotline.
During one of his drunken binges, Bob kills a man in a fight. A bystander witnesses the manslaughter, but misidentifies the killer as ... Eddie, Bob's lookalike twin. Eddie is arrested for the murder. When Bob sobers up, he realises what's happened. But instead of coming forward and confessing so as to clear his brother, Bob does the next best thing: he takes Eddie's case and defends him against the murder charge.
SPOILERS COMING. In a histrionic courtroom climax, Bob uses all his legal-eagle techniques to win Eddie an acquittal ... without ever revealing his own guilt for the crime. Overcome by his courtroom exertions and his own guilt for Eddie's plight, Bob celebrates his victory with a drunken binge. Meanwhile, dull Norma has decided she fancies simple honest Eddie more than flashy crooked Bob, but her social position would never allow her to marry a lowly piano player. No problem. Bob dies in an alcoholic stupor, and Eddie immediately trades places with his lookalike ... stepping into Bob's life and helping himself to Bob's wealth and his fiancee (and his law practice)?
"Brothers" is meant to be a drama, but it's too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Lytell manages to keep a straight face (TWO faces), and he plays these two ludicrous roles about as well as they can be played. Alec Guinness did a much better job with similar dual roles in "The Scapegoat", but the plotline of that film was much more intelligent than "Brothers". Director Walter Lang went on to helm some prestigious films - including "On the Riviera", a Danny Kaye vehicle with a similar lookalikes plot - but he was a dull and uninspired director throughout his long career. Lang's last directorial assignment was "Snow White and the Three Stooges", which is a vastly more entertaining (and more believable) film than "Brothers". I'll rate this film 2 out of 10: that's one point each for Bert Lytell's two performances.
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