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13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
A very good bad film, 26 August 2004

This is the sort of film that got RKO Radio studios into financial trouble. It has a great cast: Damita, von Stroheim, Menjou, Olivier. The plot is predictable, and the story threadbare. I doubt if there were many more people in the 1930s who were turned on by this kind of melodrama as there are now.

A porcelain collector uses his younger wife to ensnare rich army officers, so that he can blackmail them. Two officers, serving in the British army in India, find out that they are both in love with this same woman. That is the plot in a nutshell. The saving feature of this film it to witness some pretty good acting performances. Apart from Hugh Herbert, whose Scottish accent slips like a postman in the snow and sounds about as authentic as the MacFarterchops tartan, the rest of the cast turn in some pretty good performances. Von Stroheim's performance is weird; but then again he is playing a weirdo. Menjou turns in a competent performance - as he always does. Olivier is subtle: you have to watch him carefully to fully appreciate what he does. The same can be said for Damita. Yes, it's great to have a sophisticated leading lady who doesn't mind getting her kit off; but watch her performance next to Olivier in the dining table scene. Further down the cast, the pair who play the general and his sister turn in good performances, too.

The performances of the cast rescue this film, which is of its time. It is watchable.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An Indication that Curtiz's Earlier Works Were just as Good as Casablanca., 20 April 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS!! The film starts with a woman on the run from her millionaire husband giving birth to a daughter in the home of a washerwoman. The woman dies in childbirth, but the baby survives. The washerwoman leaves the baby in a horsedrawn Parisian taxicab (No. 13). The paperwork of the birth is lost in a huge tome. Sixteen years pass. The tome is bought by a poor student. One day his bookshelf collapses, and the tome opens at the page where the paperwork has been hidden. The student realises that the paperwork relates to a millionaire who has spent the last sixteen years looking for his pregnant wife. The student traces the washerwoman, and he tricks her into confessing what she has done with the baby. Meanwhile, the baby has been adopted by the cab driver and his wife, and has grown into Lili Damita. She has a boyfriend whom she loves very much. The student realises that if he marries the girl, he will be the son-in-law of a millionaire. He begins to prise the girl away from her boyfriend. There is some soul searching as the girl, now knowing who her real father is, must choose between her real family and her adopted family. But there is a happy ending with a memorable scene at the end where the bride, now back with her original boyfriend is being given away at her wedding by both her fathers.

Curtiz's work is wonderful.There is a carnival scene that is so good that the sound of the fairground organ is not needed. It is as good as any scene in his better-known Hollywood work. There is a scene where Damita, with two boyfriends seated at the same table with her, smokes two cigarettes at a time.

Apart from Damita's soul searching, the film is light entertainment. It makes you smile and it makes you happy. It's got a pretty good story, the camera work's good, Curtiz is directing, Damita's in it, there are some great scenes, what more could one want? Do watch this film; you will not be disappointed.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Superb Camerawork and Superb Acting, 20 April 2004

This is based on the stage play of the same name by Noel Coward.

Nadya is the widowed princess of the fictitious ruritanian kingdom of Krayia. She has been unhappy with her late husband, so she travels to Paris. There she falls in love with a young writer. But word soon comes that the King of Krayia has died. She is now queen. She travels back to Krayia, but the young writer follows her. Hears about an assassination attempt, and manages to stop it. Queen Nadya is not allowed to marry the writer because she is royalty and he is a commoner. As thanks for saving her life, she invites him to dinner - one last night. There is a twist ending which is quite sad. The film talks about lovers being trapped between love and duty, a theme which turns up again and again in Coward's works.

It has been suggested that the film, being silent, lacks the sharp dialogue of Noel Coward. But the film does have redeeming features. Firstly the camerawork under Graham Cutts's direction, is wonderful. In about ten seconds spinning scenes suggest the brutality and turmoil of Princess Nadya's marriage. The other feature is the acting ability of Lili Damita. Cutts tests her to the full. But she is at her best when she suggests allure in the close up, her eyes, dark as sloes, figuratively melting everything in her field of vision.

This film came out as the talkies were coming in. It was hacked about by the censors. It should be a lot better known than it is.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Arguably the best ever performance by a film actress., 15 February 2003

This film was made by the Austrian Sascha Film, with money provided by (probably) the German UFA and (certainly) the British Stoll film companies. Stoll's involvement allowed the company to film in Britain. Most of it is filmed in London, with occasional scenes in Cambridge and Paris. The story is by P G Wodehouse, of Jeeves and Wooster fame.

The story is rightly regarded as pretty lightweight. A restaurant cashier, who has a mutual attraction to the restauranteur, has a secret passion for dance. As soon as she finishes work she is off down to the dance studio for a practice. She has a chance meeting with a handsome impresario, who promises to make her into the greatest dancer the world has ever known. She leaves the restaurant. It is only now that the restauranteur reveals his love for her. She is caught in a dilemma. She must choose between the cosy life she has known and her urge to become an acclaimed dancer. She chooses the latter, but is lamed after, dressed as a golden butterfly, she is accidentally dropped from a prop spider's web at the London Colliseum and falls through the stage. There are a few amusing shenanigans towards the end as the restauranteur and the impresario fight for the love of the ex-dancer who now walks with a stick. It has a happy ending. That's all there is to it. So why is this film so good?

Reviewers over the years have been trying to pin down director Michael Curtiz's style. Oh they may be fast-moving films; he may be good at crowd scenes; unusual camera shots, shadows on the wall etc. But what is Curtiz's hallmark? The answer is so glaringly obvious that generations of reviewers, who cannot see the woodland for sheer trees, miss it time and again. Whether the actor be Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn or Elvis Presley, they all give their best performances when they are being directed by Michael Curtiz. That's Curtiz's style, pure and simple: he get's the best out of the performers. And Lili Damita, who at the time was fleetingly married to Curtiz, is no exception. In this film Curtiz practically gives Damita free reign to show everybody what she can do.

From the moment she appears right at the beginning dressed in that brilliant white blouse, sitting behind her cash desk, smiling at the camera, we know that this film is going to be about her photogeneity and her skills in the art of film mime. Excellent are the best striptease scene I have seen in a film. (She can do in a few seconds what Kim Basinger could not do in a much longer time in "9-and-a-Half Weeks.") After she has decided to become a dancer, she returns to the restaurant where she once works, and gives a display of gaity tinged with sadness. But her greatest scene has to be when, while she is recovering from her fall, she tries to dance again, to prove to herself that she can still perform. She doesn't collapse in a groaning sobbing heap like Bette Davis or Joan Crawford would, the realisation that she will never dance again is written on her face where we the audience can see it. I have not seen all of Damita's silent films; but, if "The Golden Butterfly" is not Damita's best performance, then all I can say is I have some good filmwatching to look forward to.

20 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
One of the best unknown films, 15 February 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If James Cagney had played Paul Krohl and Greta Garbo (who had in fact turned down the part) had played Marta Molnar, this film would be a lot better known than it is. Because the leading roles were played by the lesser-known Warren William and Lili Damita, the film is neglected, although neither Cagney, Garbo, nor anyone else, for that matter, could have bettered the performances. When this film is reviewed, reviewers, who are not averse to writing hatchet jobs on creaky old black and whites, instead write comments like: "Not at all bad," and "Uncommonly well acted."

The film closely follows the life of the crooked Swedish safety-match tycoon Ivar Kreugar, right up to his suicide, after being caught trying to sell forged Italian government bonds. There are a few scenarios which are made up for the purposes of the film, otherwise the story of Paul Krohl is in perfect accord with the facts, right down to the invention of the three-on-a-match superstition in an attempt to get people to use more matches. This film is well-layered, a perfect analysis of modern industrialism. It shows that products are successful only because they have a limited life. The scenes of Krohl working as a sweeper at a ball-park shows that an industry has arisen dealing with the spent products. The doomed love affair with Marta Molnar shows that he is trapped by the industrialisation process, which relies on the money he has borrowed, eventually bringing about his ruin. Warren William's acting cannot be praised enough. He is totally convincing, as he manipulates people with his reassuring, "Never worry about it till it happens, and I'll take care of it then." Lili Damita provides some light relief, as she unsuccessfully spurns Krohl's advances; and is, as we all know, exceptionally good-looking.

This film is well worth watching.