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Lulu Monahan (Patsy Kelly), the press agent for John Barrymore (John Barrymore),is attempting to get a sponsor for a radio program. To that end, she and the agent for bandleader Kay Kyser (Kay Kyser), plant a story that the great Shakespearean actor, over his heartfelt objections, will teach Kyser how to play Shakespeare, which isn't the same as playing Paducah, which soon becomes evident. Highlights are the singing of Ginny Simms and a rumba by Lupe Velez; lowlights already cited. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Painful self humiliation from a fallen star. Barrymore here plays himself as a has been Shakespearean star so desperate for a Radio contract that he agrees to appear opposite Kay Kyser and band in a festival of the bard's plays.
John was on his last legs when he made this, as testified by a bloated and sometimes drunken appearance and he's treated badly by the script and cast (all his tax and drinking problems are trotted out as "humour" and in a dream scene Barrymore is even shown as a bull defeated by toreador Kyser). Yet this film does have a certain weird amusement value if you catch it in the right mood and if you can forget it's his final film..
Barrymore works very hard to make the most of this script, bellowing and posturing his way through the proceedings. It's a million miles from subtle but with his snorts and grunts and bulging eyes he certainly holds the attention and even generates the odd laugh. Occasionally there's a flash of his old talent. At one point he delivers part of Hamlet's To Be Or Not To Be soliquey in an attempt to demonstrate how Shakespeare should be performed. The film and the scene to this point lead us to expect that Barrymore will send the speech up.
Instead in the midst of the frantic mugging Barrymore gives a heart felt and totally straight reading of the scene. It lasts a minute and is intensely moving. There's genuine rawness here and John himself seems quite overcome. (It's extraordinary they kept this in) For a few scenes after this we get to hear his voice giving further beautifully modulated readings from Romeo and Juliet before the movie goes back to it's demeaning purpose.
Patsy Kelly is one of the other talents who help save this farrago from complete disaster.
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