I've seen much, much better. Flawed by VERY BAD writing!!
Last night I watched an old film for interest in the history behind it rather than for the film itself. Neither was really worth the effort; in fact, the film's a mess. I watched "The Man Who Came Back" (1931), the seventh of twelve collaborations of Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell of "Seventh Heaven" and "Street Angel" silent fame. Indeed, they made three films together in 1931 alone, of which this is the first.
I watched the film, though, because it just so happens that Humphrey Bogart was Charles Farrell's dialogue coach on the film. Too, it was the same year that Bogart appeared in the Charles Farrell film "Body and Soul", one of only two Bogart films I've never seen. I'm suspicious of the possibility that Bogart got the job because Kenneth MacKenna was a co-star in this film, and he just happened to be Bogart's best friend at that time. Bogart was a fledgling film actor at Fox at the time. Also in this film, by the way, are William Holden (no relation to the later actor of the same name), Mary Forbes, Ullrich Haupt, William Worthington, Peter Gawthorne, and Leslie Fenton.
This one begins with a very fine scene of Farrell, after a very drunken night, awakening in the middle of the afternoon to have breakfast. Meanwhile, downstairs, his very wealthy businessman father is aggravated to the hilt because Farrell's previous night's behavior is in the newspapers on the front page - not only because it must have been a very drunken evening, but because Farrell evidently married a floozy besides and now she'll take $50,000 to get out of the arrangement! I was fascinated by the fact that when father and son meet downstairs to discuss all this, Farrell's voice, which I usually can't even stand in small segments, was half way decent and watchable. This segment lasts for nearly twenty minutes, but then a new segment begins, and one might think that that's going to be the lead up part to the conclusion of the film eventually. No way. This film gets going, then has several more segments, all linked very badly, but what's worse, the film goes haywire with its writing, and the plot becomes absolutely non-sensical! Try to imagine Janet Gaynor becoming hooked on opium in a Shanghai opium den after being a rather naive girl from the Midwest who doesn't even drink! The antics of Farrell for the entire rest of the movie are about as plausible as a dog becoming President of the United States.
Stupid movie. Way too long. Nicely acted by all around, though. Good to hear Farrell's voice actually making a decent transition finally from silent film. His earlier attempts at sound are rather bad, actually. Still, the film is poorly written, in fact, badly done: Janet Gaynor delivers a few lines of metaphor, comparing her love to spring, in one scene, and it's so ridiculous as to be embarrassing to have to listen to! Skip it or watch it for the sake of Farrell and Gaynor. But - they've certainly done much, much better.
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