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Terry O. Morse
End of the Line for Richard Barthelmess at Warner Bros.
Returning from Europe to New York City, suave Irish gangster Richard Barthelmess (as Lance McGowan) falls in love with sexy Ann Dvorak (as Joan Morley), then learns she's the kid sister of rival gambling crime lord Robert Barrat (as "Angie the Ox"). When accused of Mr. Barrat's murder, Mr. Barthelmess receives assistance from wealthy old Helen Lowell (as Abigail "The Old Doll" Ardsley). Barthelmess had taken refuge in Ms. Lowell's unlocked mansion during an attempt on his life. Barthelmess, who resembles a lover from Lowell 's past, may receive a "Midnight Alibi" from the old woman
Based on a Damon Runyon story ("The Old Doll's House"), "Midnight Alibi" helped mark the end of Richard Barthelmess' reign as a top Hollywood star. It was the last film Barthelmess made under his lucrative contract with Warner Bros
Barthelmess will always be remembered for his performances in three extraordinary films; "Broken Blossoms" (1919), "Way Down East" (1920), and "Tol'able David" (1921). He continued to be a popular player; peaking again during the transition from "silent" to talking films, Barthelmess was in Quigley Publications' "Top Ten" box office stars for 1928 (at #8), 1929 (#7), and 1930 (#8). But, by 1934, the films made by one of the industry's highest-paid stars weren't making any money
So, for "Midnight Alibi", the budget for a Barthelmess picture was necessarily lowered; nevertheless, director Alan Crosland and cameraman William Rees make it look classily miscast
There is a charming flashback to the year 1888, with Barthelmess (as Robert Anders) romancing beautiful young Helen Chandler (the younger version of present-day "Old Doll" character). In this vignette, Barthelmess wears a moustache and more attractive hairstyle; for some odd reason, he and the studio preferred a make-up style which made Barthelmess look like he was posing for pasty 1920s publicity photographs. The difference in Barthelmess' appearance (and performance) is startling. If he weren't so miscast and made-up, Barthelmess might have successfully extended his stardom
***** Midnight Alibi (7/14/34) Alan Crosland ~ Richard Barthelmess, Ann Dvorak, Helen Lowell, Helen Chandler
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