|Index||10 reviews in total|
A cranky police detective suspects a French duke of being
infamous thief ARSÈNE LUPIN.
John & Lionel Barrymore costarred together for the first time in a motion picture in this intriguing crime drama. Alike and yet so different, they are the perfect counterpoint to each other. John plays his role with suave sophistication (when not in disguise) and Lionel is earthy & common in his portrayal, each obviously having a wonderful time trying to out act the other. Helped by a generous script, the outcome is pretty much a draw, with the viewer the clear winner.
Although upstaged by the two male stars, Karen Morley is intriguing as the mystery woman John finds naked in his bed. Tully Marshall gives a colorful performance as a silly nobleman with much to lose to the master criminal. Henry Armetta & George Davis are very enjoyable as two seriously inept security guards. John Miljan provides a sturdy presence in his small role as the police prefect.
Movie mavens will recognize an uncredited Mischa Auer as a guide in the Louvre during the climactic scene dealing with an attempted heist of the Mona Lisa.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Believe it or not, the Mona Lisa actually got stolen once, and was
missing for nearly two years. In 1911, Leonardo da Vinci's 'La
Gioconda' (better known as the Mona Lisa) was taken from the Louvre by
a petty thief (and former Louvre employee) who allegedly sought to
return the world's most famous piece of art to its native Italy. His
actions after the theft make it seem more likely that he intended to
sell the painting for his personal profit. (Of course, he had no hope
of finding a buyer.) The Mona Lisa was quietly returned to the Louvre
on the very last day of 1913, remaining there ever since except for
occasional loan-outs. When "Arsène Lupin" was released in 1932 (twenty
years after the theft), most moviegoers would have recalled that 1911
crime, and their knowledge would have lent some plausibility to this
movie. "Arsène Lupin" is quite enjoyable, with MGM's usual high
production standards and Jack Conway's usual briskly efficient
direction. This movie does not lack for pleasure; what it lacks is
John Barrymore is the master criminal of the title: he specialises in perpetrating 'impossible' crimes, which he makes even more difficult by announcing them in advance ... but of course he always commits the crime and fools the gendarmes. Tully Marshall has a good scene as one of Barrymore's victims. Lupin has a penchant for elaborate disguises, which enables Barrymore (a U.S. 'Grade A' ham) to indulge his own penchant for tomfoolery. John's older brother Lionel Barrymore is Guerchard, the Javert-like Surete detective sworn to catch Lupin.
Karen Morley was an extremely beautiful actress whose private life was filled with populist political activities; on screen, she was most impressive in working-class roles that fitted her own political beliefs (such as her fine performance in 'Our Daily Bread'). In "Arséne Lupin", Morley's naturally dark hair is bleached a horrid blonde tone, and she's all tarted up in posh outfits that make her look uncomfortable rather than sexy.
SPOILERS COMING. Eventually, Lupin decides to steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. He slits the painting from its frame, rolls up the canvas, and then smuggles it out in a flower basket. We see John Barrymore casually brandishing a tightly-rolled piece of cloth which is allegedly the greatest work of art in all human history. I had to laugh at the filmmakers' error. In real life (but not in this movie), da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa on a plank of poplar wood, so a thief would have difficulty rolling it up!
Eventually, Guerchard captures Lupin and hauls him off to Le Calaboose. The scene between John and Lionel Barrymore in the police car is sheer delight, as their genuine affection for each other spills out into their characters' dialogue. I would have found this scene implausible with any two other actors. As it is, I can't imagine anyone but the Barrymore brothers playing these roles. Well, maybe Dennis and Randy Quaid, but just barely.
Don't look for a good plot line here, but "Arsène Lupin" is a delightful example of old-style movie-making. I'll rate this movie 8 points out of 10.
JOHN BARRYMORE actually underplays the role of ARSENE LUPIN in this
early talkie that features his brother LIONEL BARRYMORE as a crusty
detective seeking to solve a series of jewel robberies. John Barrymore
is the elegant man suspected of being the famed jewel thief and he
plays it with a surprising amount of charm and skill, rather than the
overacting he often displayed in later films.
KAREN MORLEY is the attractive blonde who is supposed to be helping Lionel get the goods on the thief--but, unfortunately, she's no help at all when she falls hopelessly in love with the charming scoundrel.
So much about the film, where much of the action takes place on a country estate with wealthy people in attendance, reminds me of the David Niven/Olivia de Havilland film about the Scotland Yard thief RAFFLES. Barrymore plays the role with the same effortless charm that Niven adapted for his Raffles, the man who kept authorities baffled with a string of jewel robberies.
TCM is showing a good print of the film and while some of the dialog leaves a lot to be desired, it's a good example of an early sound film that still holds up today. Interior sets of the country estate are expensively mounted and it's obvious this was designed as a major film, not a programmer, despite the slight story.
Lionel hams it up considerably throughout, but John is more effective in his underplayed role.
Arsene Lupin (1932)
*** (out of 4)
When John Barrymore got out of his contract with Warner, MGM wasted no time in signing him and even lesser time in putting him in a film with his brother Lionel. This was the first of five films they'd make together and their easy to spot rivalry really makes this film the charming gem that it is. An elderly detective (Lionel) is convinced that the Duke of Charmerace (John) is the infamous jewel thief known as Arsene Lupin. The detective will stop at nothing to prove his thoughts and that includes bringing in a sexy spy (Karen Morley). The story itself isn't anything ground breaking or Oscar-worthy but it is good enough to build up two nice characters and then stand back and let the actors do all the work. Fans of the brothers will certainly get a kick out of seeing the two men working together as both deliver very strong performances and they really make this film worth seeking out. What works best is the comic timing that the two men bring to the table as well as their rivalry. Each scene that the two men are in you can tell that they are trying to out act the other and this adds a charm that no two other actors could have captured. Just take a look at the sequence at the start when Lionel arrests John thinking that he's lying about being the Duke. Just watch this scene and then compare it to a later scene where John is holding Lionel captive until he can prove that he's really a cop. Morley also fits into the threesome quite well as she has an undeniable sexual tension with John and some fun comic touches with Lionel. The scene where she introduces herself to the Duke while naked in his bed is a pre-code gem. Some could argue that a stronger "story" would have helped matters and it might have but the cast doesn't even bother to speak with French accents so there's no doubt that the studio was just trying to get the two men in the same film. The ending packs a terrific punch as everything gets closed up very tightly and in a way that everyone, including the viewer, wins.
A remake of the 1916 silent film, based on the 1909 novel by Maurice Leblanc. The detective series would be made into numerous plays, films and TV series in the UK, the US, and France over the years. This 1932 version starred the smashing Barrymore brothers John (as the Duke) and Lionel (as Detective Guerchard). They would also star together in Grand Hotel, Dinner at Eight, and several others over the next couple years. Sonia (Karen Morley) shows up in the Duke's bed during a party in this pre-Hayes code film; first the lights go out in the bedroom, then they go out in the main ballroom, then the search is on for the crook and the missing jewelry, as well as other missing valuables... You can tell talkies hadn't been around too long, as they still use caption cards several times. Also watch for a new kind of safe that doesn't need a combination. Well-thought- out plot, no big holes, but no big surprises here either. Not bad for an early talkie film. Clever ending.
John Barrymore plays a gentleman who is also the thief, Arsene Lupin.
While no one knows for sure this is the case, the inspector (Lionel
Barrymore) is sure of it but cannot prove it. So, Lionel spends much of
the movie following John--hoping to catch this brilliant and slippery
Although I liked the film, I really think I had higher expectations for it and thought it might be better than just a very good time-passer. That's because it paired John AND Lionel Barrymore in the film and since these brothers were such dynamic actors, I think I expected sparks and magic but instead only caught glimpses of it here and there. Now this is not to say this is a bad film--it certainly isn't. It just didn't rise to the level of being unforgettable or a film I strongly recommend you see. Thanks an adequate script, the film is pretty good but I was surprised to hear no French accents at all in the film even though it was supposedly about French people! Also, there just wasn't much life in the film until it was nearly complete. The ending was indeed excellent and entertaining--so good that it elevated the film from a 6 to a 7. It's nice to see it ended on a high note.
Suave gentleman thief Arsene Lupin (John Barrymore) clashes with
Detective Guerchard (Lionel Barrymore) as he tries to steal the Mona
Lisa. Any movie with the two Barrymore brothers together is
automatically worth checking out. Karen Morley is also good in her sexy
role. Her acting style dates her but she's good at what she does. A
charming, fun movie with lots of class. This is old-fashioned but in
the best way. You see Hollywood try to revive this type of film every
few years but with little success. A must-see for fans of the
I wonder if Arsene Lupin was the inspiration for the infamous Savoir-Faire from the Klondike Kat cartoon. For those who don't know, Savoir-Faire was a French-Canadian mouse who also happened to be a master thief. Probably not but I love imagining Lionel Barrymore saying "Savoir-Faire is everywhere."
As a kid, I used to watch the Japanese anime series updating the
exploits of the titular jewel thief (where he was depicted as an over-
sexed buffoon, flanked by a shapely girl and two taciturn but deadly
accomplices!) though I have yet to check out the renowned Hayao
Miyazaki's 1979 feature-length THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO inspired from
it, which I acquired some time ago. I also own and am already familiar
with two well-regarded French efforts (retaining the
turn-of-the-century setting), namely THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
(1957; stylishly helmed by Jacques Becker) and SIGNED, ARSENE LUPIN
(1959); for the record, others which intrigue me are the 1962 ARSENE
LUPIN VS. ARSENE LUPIN and the 1971 TV series, both also emanating from
the character's 'native' country.
However, the film under review which I had first acquired via a TV-to- VHS-to-DVD conversion of poor quality, but which I eventually upgraded (albeit still culled from a TCM screening) remains perhaps the most popular rendition of this debonair figure; by the way, I also have in my collection its direct but-as-yet unwatched 1938 sequel ARSENE LUPIN RETURNS. Incidentally, such gentlemen crooks were a regular feature of pulp fiction (notably the similarly much-filmed "Raffles": I own versions of it dating from 1917 starring, as here, John Barrymore 1925, 1930 alas, only a TV-to-VHS copy and 1939!) until they made way for more ruthless and ambitious criminal masterminds such as Fantomas and Dr. Mabuse.
Anyway, this classy production best-known for first teaming John with his elder brother Lionel (they would appear together 5 times in 2 years, on one of which they were even joined by sister Ethel!) is most enjoyable, with a plot which has since become a cliché: the protagonist's duality (hiding under an air of respectability and, at one point, the guise of an aged flower-seller to pull off a daring 'job' at the Louvre); the analogous deception by the woman in his life (or, more precisely, the one he finds in his bed a delightfully racy scene for an MGM picture but, then, this was a "Pre-Code" release during a reception!); Lupin's tenacious, but ultimately sympathetic, antagonist (whose physical attributes including a prominent limp actually fit the description of the 'villain' as given by an eye-witness!); the ultra-modern gadgets (a safe without the proverbial combination but 'armed' with an electrical charge), etc.
John Barrymore's famed good looks ("The Great Profile" was 50 at the time) and up-till-then infrequently-tapped comic timing (though he would increasingly come to rely upon it for the rest of his career!) make him, respectively, ideal casting and a pleasure to watch; for what it is worth, I have as many as 23 titles of his still to go through even if only 4 fall into my current exercise of movie viewing based on all-time best polls and the higher ratings bestowed by Leslie Halliwell and Leonard Maltin!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
During the filming of Rasputin and the Emperor, Lionel Barrymore kept
calling the director from a phone booth, asking him to tell John
Barrymore not to put his hand on Lionel's wrist as it stole focus. I
guess you had to watch that John like a hawk.
John is the Duke of Charmerace aka Arsene Lupin, and Lionel is the hapless Guerchard who is under great pressure to capture him, as he's stealing right and left. But the Duke keeps beating him every time.
Arsene Lupin has a bigger goal than a few jewels - the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. What the script writers didn't realize is that you can't roll up the Mona Lisa, she was painted on wood.
Karen Morley is on hand as someone Guerchard sends in to help capture Lupin.
The entire film is very sophisticated with fun moments. John and Lionel are great and obviously having a good time.
Among the Barrymores, Lionel (1878-1954) was the oldest and my
favorite, followed by Ethel (1879-1959) and then John (1882-1942). The
3 made only 1 film together (Rasputin) but John and Lionel made
several, including Grand Hotel (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), and
Night Flight (1933).
Arsene Lupin was John's first film with Lionel and his first film for MGM. He has lost his chiseled good looks, put on a little weight, and the dissipation is only slightly in view, and in the next few years it would be more noticeable. Lionel's problems with arthritis are also slightly in view here, and also would worsen with time. Eventually he would perform in a wheelchair.
The film itself is pretty poor, with a wandering plot and a lot of wasted time. Karen Morley gives an enchanting performance as the love interest.
What I like best about this film is the relationship of John and Lionel. It shows them playing off one another and some true filial affection.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|