Cheri-Bibi is an escape artist wrongly imprisoned for murdering the wealthy father of his admirer Cecile. The real murderer is Cecile's fiancé, so how will Bibi escape his death sentence and win back Cecile?
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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 is perhaps John Gilbert's first solid starring role in a talkie. Of course the irony is that by 1931 and after a half dozen bombs (not including Hollywood REVUE OF 1929), it was too late. Gilbert had lost his audience. So although this film and DOWNSTAIRS and QUEEN Christina presented the great silent idol in solid sound films, it was just too late to revive his career.
THE PHANTOM OF Paris was based on a famous novel by Gaston Leroux and offered Gilbert a role that was part leading man and part character study. He is very good as a famed magician who is framed for murder and suffers for years in prison and captivity before getting his delicious revenge and assuming the murderer's role via plastic surgery.
This is not a great film. Despite a good cast it still has the B film look and feel (thanks to LB Mayer no doubt). but Gilbert is very good and has a few scenes in which is is just stunning. He was a great actor and should have had a great career in talkies.
Leila Hyams is fine as the love interest. Lewis Stone is solid as the investigator. Jean Hersholt is good as Gilbert's friend. Ian Keith is the cad Gilbert replaces. Natalie Moorhead is very good as the scheming woman. C. Aubrey Smith is the father.
But this is John Gilbert's film from the opening scene. He remains a favorite of mine and I will continue to seek out his films. John Gilbert is a lost treasure who deserves to be re-discovered.
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