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Director Joe May was so determined to make this a close remake of the German film Mazurka (1935) that he kept a print of "Mazurka" on the set and frequently ran sections of it, to the annoyance of the new film's cast. In addition to copying the German original shot-by-shot in many scenes, this film also reuses the original score and songs. See more »
This must be the best role Kay Francis ever had - and she rises to it, giving an astonishing performance. When you first see her - in blonde wig, singing and dancing Dietrich style but half-drunk - you know you're in for something different. As the film flashes back Francis transforms into an innocent young girl, and back to the present she stands with solemn dignity, a woman all but "washed-up". You'll never forget the final moments of this film.
When Francis is not on, and it takes her a while to appear, the film is less extraordinary - but by no means bad. Jane Bryan's a bit wet, but Basil Rathbone is suitably slimy as her seducer. And there are strong performances from the wonderful Laura Hope Crews (Aunt Pitty-Pat as an opera singer) and the excellent Donald Crisp.
But it is the visual style of the piece that, coupled with Francis' performance, makes the film unforgettable. The story goes that this is a frame by frame remake of a German film called "Mazurka" starring Pola Negri. This would explain why the film looks so different to the usual Hollywood style. There are bizarre camera angles, expressionist sequences, non-realistic moments, haunting music and bizarre costume, make-up and set designs. Joe May directs with a steady hand, and Sidney Hickox's cinematography and Orry-Kelly's costumes warrant special mention.
This film deserves to be resurrected and re-assessed. It is one of the most original American films of the 1930's. It also makes me want to re-assess the career of Kay Francis, who is an actress I never warmed to before this film. See it and tell me what you think!
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