Low-budget tear-jerker with an outstanding senior diva performance.
Even with an apparent missing first reel which sets up the plot and reveals some important details, this poverty row drama is a tour de fource for the wonderful Henrietta Crosman, a grand dame of the early 20th Century theater. She plays an impoverished theater star who travels to the family estate of an old friend she resembles, making them believe that she is their wealthy aunt. She discovers that their problems are twice as bad as hers and sets out to make things right before the curtain falls on her life, ultimately giving the greatest performance of her career.
As "Lady Scoursby" (the titled name of her actress friend Henrietta Scorsby), Crosman begins to play "Miss Fix-It". Scoursby nephew Holmes Herbert has squandered the money from the estate due to bad business deals and issues in the market, while his wife Natalie Moorhead is having an affair with a married man (Jameson Thomas). Their daughter (Dorothy Lee) is in love with a young man (William Bakewell) who doesn't have the social standing her mother would like him to have, and their son (John Darrow) suffers from alcoholism and an addiction to gambling. It will take a lot of scheming on Crosman's part to fix her adopted family whom in spite of themselves she comes to love.
While the plot itself is a bit preposterous, it is the type of film that you could see MGM casting Marie Dressler in at the height of her early talkie stardom. Crosman is excellent, especially when she confronts the head of a gambling house where Darrow has forged his father's signature on bank notes to try and get out of his debts. It's a nice change of pace for young Dorothy Lee from those wild and wacky Wheeler and Woolsey comedies, and she handles her part nicely. Darrow also gives a lively performance, especially when he drunkenly crawls in bed with a sleeping Crosman, mistaking the guest room for his own. There are several other moments that help mix in comedy with the melodrama, tied up neatly at a dinner party Crosman holds which is attended by Thomas and his vindictive wife Dorothy Revier.
Crosman was obviously one tough cookie, having traveled all over the United States and Canada during her years as a theater star. On films, she was notable as the matriarch in Edna Ferber's "The Royal Family of Broadway" and gave a rich performance as the embittered farm woman in "Pilgramage" whose estranged son dies tragically during World War I, leaving behind a son she refuses to acknowledge. "The Curtain Falls" is a lovely obscure gem which, while not complete, is still worth watching for its focus on a theater star pretty much forgotten today.
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