The reviews of this one simply compelled me to give it a try; I wasn't disappointed. I love films made at the dawn of sound, and in this case also the dawn of taste, apart from often being entertaining they usually tell me a lot about who we were and who we now are. All white people back then apparently considered they were innately superior to all other races, nowadays gifted with movie-hindsight all races can all afford to be retrospectively superior to everyone in the primitive past, and in both cases, innocently. Where we will end up though is another matter it even tells me something that the original New York stage play ran to 184 performances in 1927, and that this film in black and white (if you "know black from white") has actually survived Time when much worthier films were left to rot.
Dawn is a white native goddess with a hazy past, white Britisher Tom Allen loves her purely but jet blacked-up native Shep Keyes lusts after her. It was still clunky old Noah Beery for all the make-up though I just had to laugh at the blackened armpits of his shirt. He's worth watching singing to his whip too. The first song is shrilled out by a blackface Margaret Dumont lookalike I looked out in vain for Captain Spaulding. Vivienne Segal and Walter Woolf King (pre-Marx's Lasspari) are excellent in their lead roles with every word and every lyric perfectly enunciated, every emotion delivered complete with Capital Letters. I loved Woolf's line at one point about not letting Segal sacrifice herself and "go through with this savage religious stupidity" out of the mouths of babes! The songs, even when the lyrics make you sit up are in the main dull as ditchwater except for We Two (I was wishing for Eddie Cantor though) and the energetic A Tiger (the routine later bettered in King Of Jazz's Ragamuffin Romeo).
It's exhilaratingly barmy doing Vienna in the jungle, but it must have played pretty old-fashioned and pointless even in 1930. So if you decide to hunt this down as it's probably banned from TV and watch it, keep it in the strict amber of context and you will have a unique experience no matter what your colour or prejudices. Unfortunately I can't say the same for Blazing Saddles (my personal bête noire) which was not innocent but malicious.
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