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The Great Gabbo (1929)

An insanely, egocentric ventriloquist, even though he is possessed by his wooden dummy, is in love with a dancer who is in love with another. The dummy gives advice to the ventriloquist.


James Cruze, Erich von Stroheim (uncredited)


Ben Hecht (adapted from the story by), Hugh Herbert (dialogue)

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Cast overview:
Erich von Stroheim ... Gabbo (as Eric Von Stroheim)
Betty Compson ... Mary
Donald Douglas ... Frank
Marjorie Kane Marjorie Kane ... Babe (as Margie 'Babe' Kane)


For the ventriloquist Gabbo his wooden dummy Otto is the only means of expression. When he starts relying more and more on Otto, he starts going mad. Written by Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Hated by all-his real soul spoke through the lips of a lifeless dummy (Print Ad- New York Evening Post, ((New York, NY)) 12 September 1929) See more »


Drama | Musical | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »





German | English

Release Date:

12 September 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der große Gabbo See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)


Black and White | Color (Multicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The "Gaga Bird" production number is presumed lost. Please check your attic. See more »


[first lines]
Mary: Oh, I see a move. Look - eight on the nine, and then your King comes up, and that plays a Queen.
Gabbo: Will you leave these cards alone? You think you can show me something?
See more »

Alternate Versions

Most, perhaps all, VHS and DVD releases of the film have the color sequences in black and white. See more »


Spoofed in The Simpsons: Krusty Gets Kancelled (1993) See more »


That New Step
Written by Lynn Cowan and Paul Titsworth
Performed by Marjorie Kane and chorus
Also performed as part of the finale
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Fine Performances Bad Music
12 September 2010 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

Great Gabbo, The (1929)

** (out of 4)

Early talkie has Erich von Stroheim playing Gabbo, a ventriloquist who breaks free from his assistant and then finds huge success on his own with his dummy Otto. After his success he runs into his assistant again who by this time is also famous and Gabbo thinks he can control her like he did when they first started. This here is a pretty confusing movie because it's not quite sure what it wants to do. The stuff with the dummy controlling Gabbo might make you expect a horror movie but these elements are very few. We have the personal drama of the assistant and her new husband. We have some plot about Gabbo being crazy. Then, for some unknown reason, the final thirty-minutes pretty much gets away from the Gabbo story and we get some incredibly long music numbers but more on them in a bit. There's not too much plot here but what little there is seems to come and go as the movie goes along as we switch gears so many times that it's pretty hard to follow what the filmmakers are trying to do. The best thing about the movie and the only real reason to watch it is for the performance of von Stroheim who is perfectly wicked in the role. He gives an incredibly strong performance here and you can't help but feel the hatred of his character as it seems to be really coming out of the actor. I'm sure this period in his life wasn't the greatest so this role gave him a chance to really let out some steam. Betty Compson, who appeared in THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK, is pretty good in her role as well but the screenplay gives her a lot less to do and doesn't have nearly as flashy of a role. I'm really not sure where the music numbers come from but I'm going to guess they were added after talkies became popular and Musicals started bringing people in. The film is pretty much doing its own thing when out of no where these dance sequences come up and they'll all incredibly bad, poorly staged and most of the time the voices are so high-pitched that you'll be wishing you were watching a silent. There's one incredibly strange one where the dancers are flies stuck in a spider web that's so bizarre it's pretty much a must-see. The sound quality here is certainly among the best I've heard from this era and considering how small the budget was I'm curious how they managed to do this.

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