Leoncavallo's miniature masterpiece, immortalised by the incomparable Enrico Caruso, transfers badly to the cinema screen. Even allowing for the technical limitations of the period, the dramatic effect of the staged original never materialises, the essential drama and passion of the story, simple as it is, being lost in the deficiencies of this film, particularly in respect of staging,costume and sound.A very good, if not great, tenor, Richard Tauber seems unsure and out of his depth in his interpretation of the principal character. Tauber had, of course, enjoyed the benefit of his professional liaison with Lehar, and the consumate artistry so evident in his performance of Lehar's songs, together with his affinity with things Schubertian only serve to suggest that in 'Pagliacci' he was, in terms of interpretation, at the limit of his capabilities. Nevertheless, the film is an interesting piece of cinematic history and is, even given its limitations, quite enjoyable.As a matter of interest, although Caruso certainly helped to 'launch 'the phonograph in the early years of the 20th century, and recorded copiously, it is posterity's loss that, as far as is known, he never appeared in a sound film using electrical recording.
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