Cantakerous, opinionated Peter Grimm is a seventh generation member of a Dutch immigrant family that founded a family flower farm two centuries earlier. Realizing he has a bad heart, Grimm extracts promises and concessions from those he expects will survive him and draws up his will appropriately. He extracts a promise from his beloved foster daughter Catherine that she will marry his newly-arrived nephew Frederik although she loves James, a hired hand on the farm. Grimm's hopes that the farm will remain in the family are given a blow when the mercenary Frederik announces his intentions to sell the entire operation to a hated Grimm rival When Grimm returns as a spirit he discovers a terrible situation of his own creation. His "friends" are dissatisfied with their bequests, young William's health is failing, and Catherine seems headed for an unhappy marriage. Through the dying William and his old friend and confidante, Dr. Macpherson, Grimm's spirit tries to reverse the harm he's done. Written by
Entertaining and Funny-With Some Great Individual Performances
"The Return of Peter Grimm" (1935) is a remake of a 1926 silent of the same name; which itself was a adaptation of David Belascoe's play. Lionel Barrymore plays the title character, a wealthy uncle whose relatives live with him on his estate. Helen Mack plays his ward Catherine and George Breakston his young nephew William. Peter and William are not in good health and their doctor (Edward Ellis) is a constant presence in the house.
The main villain of the piece is older nephew Frederik (Allen Vincent) who is responsible for the suicide of William's mother and is plotting to marry Catherine and sell the estate they will jointly inherit. Vincent is appropriately slimy in this role and they somehow manage to subtly convey this the instant he first appears on the screen (you just sense it). These older films are often a surprising showcase of acting and directing talent.
Peter favored this marriage when he was alive, and encouraged Catherine to reject the man she really loves. But upon his death he realizes his mistake and returns as a ghost hoping to set things right.
The ghostly effects are of course quite dated but rather interesting. It appears that the scenes with Peter's ghost were shot in a normal fashion and then altered in post-production. A blur was glued to the side of the negative in which Peter is positioned, it is way too extreme and renders Barrymore's acting for the camera ability irrelevant; he can only convey his character's emotions with his voice during this sequences. And although they try to stage the scenes in such a way that the other actors (playing live characters) are not obscured, there are several times when they walk right into the blurred area.
Barrymore is an amazing actor, and the production is worth viewing just to see him do his stuff. He is nicely assisted by Ethel Griffies who plays Mrs. Bartolomew, a charity obsessed busybody who gets funnier with each scene in which she appears. The film also has a nice script going for it, especially if you like film's that preserve the basic flavor of their original stage productions. I can't imagine the silent version being very entertaining as it is the dialogue that really holds everything together.
Of special note is the touching final scene between Barrymore and Breakston, which you don't see coming. They go out on this sequence, which I imagine was quite a sensation for 1935 audiences.
The again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?