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Bibi is a world class escape artist, but he cannot escape the false murder charge that is placed on him. Max has killed Bourrelier before he was removed from the will so that he will be rich when he marries Cecile. Together with Vera, they put the blame on Bibi, who is a romantic rival to Max, and he is sentenced to death. But Bibi escapes before his execution and hides in Herman's secret cellar. When he learns that Max is dying, Bibi goes to his house for his confession, but Max dies before it is told to anyone else. So Bibi, has just one chance, and he goes to Dr. Gorin who will make him look like Max so that he can clear his name and put the blame where it belongs - on Max, even in death. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
This intriguing film is based on a novel by Gaston Leroux (author of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) entitled CHÉRI-BIBI. John Gilbert, with all his charm showing, and looking and behaving every bit like Ronald Colman, plays a raconteur magician and escape artist named Chéri-Bibi who performs stage feats similar to those of the later American stage celebrity Houdini. The drama is set in Paris in the late 19th century. He and a 'girl of good family' named Cécile are in love. She is engaged to a dastardly aristocratic fortune-hunter named the Marquis du Touchais (this could be a satirical name meaning something like 'Lord Gotchya'), who is a most appalling character whose unsympathetic nature is exceeded only by his revolting Olympian pomposity. (There is nothing worse than a bad marquis other than, perhaps, in the world of the cinema, a bad marquee.) Leila Hyams plays the quavery-voiced ingénue Cécile, in true 1931 style. The dour and unremitting hatred of John Gilbert by a detective inspector played by Lewis Stone in his most threatening mode is the key to the story. At first Stone is secretly hired by Cécile's rich father to try to discredit Gilbert, so that his daughter will not be tempted to marry him. But Stone conspicuously fails, and is humiliated in public. His wounded vanity, elevated to the level of a maniacal idée fixe, becomes the source of years of persecution for Gilbert, whom he jails and then hunts down for years mercilessly, on a false murder charge. The story somewhat falls apart with Gilbert hiding in a cellar for four years, but then Leroux always liked men lurking underground, only to rise up with romantic intentions at unexpected moments. This is very much a watchable tale carried through by the sincerity with which its non-credible story line is believed in by the director and the actors, who all seem convinced that it is important, so it must be. After all, if it's in the papers or it's on the stage or screen, it must be true. Gaston Leroux knew that you don't have to get everything right, you just have to be able to carry off a melodrama with sufficient conviction. God knows how many times I have now seen PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, due to necessity. The reason why I don't get bored is that I sit there every time trying to analyze what it is that makes it work. Even Andrew Lloyd-Webber doesn't know. No one knows. I have certainly never figured it out and no one ever will. Actually, every time I see it I enjoy it. Now why is that? What is it about these Gaston Leroux stories that makes them not so much Ghastly Leroux stories as something more like Gastronomic Leroux stories, in the sense that they result in you just going on wanting more. 'Lerouxerie' could be patented as a kind of addictive junk food.
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