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Jeanne De Casalis
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Early movie of Coward play is too hammy and listless
This 1933 British movie is among the first of the Noel Coward plays to be put on film. "Bitter Sweet" is a drama tragedy set around music and romance. Coward wrote it originally as an operetta. The lead actress, Anna Neagle sings just twice in the film. She plays Sarah Millick , aka, Sari Linden. More music is provided with an orchestra and the singing of Ivy St. Helier, who is very good as a French-Austrian cabaret singer.
Fernand Gravey plays Carl Linden. Miles Mander is particularly effective as the dastardly Captain Lutte. And, Clifford Heatherley is very good as the restaurateur, Herr Schlick.
Aside from the musical numbers, and one or two exceptions, the acting is just so-so. This film is in the first years of the talkies, and it still has some of the dramatic style of the silent screen. Neagle, in particular, has several posed pauses with overly dramatic facial close-ups. Mander also has a couple of those. Such film techniques were part of the silent film milieu in order to get messages across. But, once sound came it, most studios were quick to get away from this acting and filming technique. With sound, it comes across as very hammy.
The plot also seems to drag on a bit too long, with little new or interesting happening. The remedy would have been more musical numbers at least a couple more songs by Neagle. But, as it is, even with what seems like an elaborate setting in the Schlick café during much of the last half of the film, this movie closely resembles a daytime soap opera. I haven't yet seen the 1940 version with Claudette Colbert and Nelson Eddy.
Devoted fans of Noel Coward and Anna Neagle may enjoy this film somewhat. Still, I enjoy Coward and Neagle but found it hard to stay interested in this film.
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