In Gay Madrid (1930) Poster


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In Dull Madrid!
David Atfield24 January 2000
Actually only the first few minutes are set in Madrid - the rest is in Santiago! Watching this early talkie makes me wonder why audiences didn't storm the studios demanding a return to silents. The actors, and the camera, that had once been so free, were now reduced to almost complete immobility. Actors like Novarro, possessed of strong physical abilities, were forced to stand around chatting endlessly in living rooms. Were audiences so captivated by any talking that they didn't notice how poorly written the dialogue was? Only a year earlier they could see Novarro frolicking through coconut groves and swimming the South Seas in "The Pagan" or in a spectacular storm at sea in "Across to Singapore". No such action here - such were the restrictions of early sound recording. No wonder so many people thought talkies were just a fad. Despite all this Novarro is remarkably good, particularly in the charming and funny scene when he seduces the heroine. His singing is also impressive - we often forget what a great singer this "silent" star was. Everyone else looks lost as they struggle with the dialogue and try to make sense of the shallow and dull plot. And why is it that Novarro is the only character in this Spanish setting with a Spanish accent? Even his father speaks like an Oxford don. It makes you wonder if MGM was trying to destroy Novarro in the same way they did John Gilbert. It's hard to believe that the excellent Robert Z. Leonard directed this. One point of interest is the relationship between Novarro's character, Ricardo, and the heroine's brother Ernesto. David Scott, although a very poor actor, certainly plays Ernesto as having a crush on Ricardo. Given the beauty of both men, and what we now know of Novarro's own sexuality, it is possible that there was more sub-text going on here than the writers intended!
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Ramon Novarro Steps On The Slippery Slope
Ron Oliver3 March 2002
A young playboy IN GAY MADRID is sent to provincial Santiago de Compostela to complete his education. The decline in the career of Ramon Novarro, MGM's eager & energetic romantic leading man, can trace its beginnings to this unfortunate little film. After his great success with THE PAGAN & DEVIL-MAY-CARE (both 1929), this had to have been quite a disappointment. With his pleasant accent & fine singing voice, Novarro had already proved that talking pictures would be no problem for him - if given the right roles. But Hollywood was about to go out of the Latin Lover movie business. With new stars like Robert Montgomery & Clark Gable soon to ascend, male masculinity would be the vogue and gender ambiguity - represented by Novarro, Billy Haines & Nils Asther - would not only no longer be in fashion, but could be viewed as rather dangerous by the Studio front offices. Starting with IN GAY MADRID, Novarro would enter a bumpy flight of highs & lows in the films he would be assigned, ending with a crash landing in THE NIGHT IS YOUNG (1934). He would play the parts well, in a kaleidoscope of ethnic disguises, but ultimately his MGM stardom was doomed. In MADRID, Novarro once again plays a school boy, a part for which he was about a dozen years too old. The love story is pure soap opera and not very compelling. Novarro's fellow students, strangely all male, have the distressing habit of frequently breaking into rousing campus choruses, sounding rather too much like Wiffenpoof wannabes. Novarro is the only member of the cast who seems to care about exhibiting even a scintilla of Spanish sensibility. Novarro is reunited with lovely Dorothy Jordan, his costar in DEVIL-MAY-CARE, but she is essentially given mostly silly señorita dialogue and so becomes tedious quite quickly. Plump little Beryl Mercer provides some moments of sly fun as Miss Jordan's maiden aunt. Novarro's natural charm gets to slip out at times. His songs, especially the serenaded ballads, are very enjoyable (Xavier Cugat was responsible for some of the music). And in the scene in which he tries to regale his father with details of an imaginary taxi accident, Novarro is very funny. Too bad the rest of the film kept tripping him up...
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Creaky but OK
preppy-310 September 2001
Early talkie about young, fun-loving college student Ricardo (Ramon Novarro) being sent by his father from Madrid to Santiago to concentrate on his studies. Naturally he falls in love and predictable complications happen. No great movie, but a good chance to see young and very handsome Novarro acting and singing (he had a beautiful voice). I wonder why his career died shortly after this--he was extremely good-looking, a good actor and could sing (and dance). His being gay might have something to do with it. The rest of the cast is pretty bad--especially Dorothy Jourdan (talk about overacting) and David Scott (even worse than her). Also, the title is strange--it takes place in Santiago NOT Madrid! However, the title is kind of amusing considering Novarro's orientation. A previous poster wrote about the interplay between Novarro and costar Scott--he's right--the gay implications are there and they're strong. It does make one wonder is anything happened between Scott and Novarro. Anyways, this is an OK time waster. It's a must if you're gay--just to see Novarro!
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