Frederick Osborne, Junior is slightly agitated because his father, Senior, is acting more like a college student than the president of a huge merchantile fleet. Senior reveals that he is ... See full summary »
A film star and her young daughter stow away on a cross-country train to California. The compartment they invade belongs to a celebrated biology professor; romance blossoms. The star's manager turns up; complications ensue.
On New Year's Eve, Geraldine ('Jerry') Trent decides to break up with her boyfriend Jim Woodward, having finally grown tired of his dishonesty and his infidelities. Soon afterward, Geraldine meets and falls in love with novelist Anthony Blake. Blake knows that she has had a man in her past, but he is content as long as he never finds out who it was. All seems well until her sister Joan returns from a trip, and happily introduces Woodward as the new man in her life. Written by
Of all the many silent era stars, most of them female, whose careers would fizzle out in the sound era, the finest of them all was Gloria Swanson. A consummate actress since the late 1910s with a seemingly effortless ability to express vast amounts without stepping out of the bounds of realism, her skill and versatility were initially enough to secure her lead roles in the earliest talkies. Indiscreet is however among her last pictures before going into a retirement of sorts.
The movie is a romantic musical scripted by Buddy de Silva and directed by Leo McCarey, and is very much a product of its "pre-code" time. Just as the Marx Brothers comedies of this era had plots loosely thrown together for the sake of laughs, Indiscreet has a plot loosely thrown together for the sake of cheeky innuendo. One gets the impression that de Silva was a fan of rather crude sexual humour, and would been downright crass if he'd been allowed, the jokes are dressed up in such a sophisticated wit it seems almost admirable. Director McCarey had spent the silent era making slapstick shorts, and this is the earliest feature I have seen of his, but he seems to have adapted well, utilizing the long takes and relaxed camera that stood him in good stead for silent comedy. His gradual angle changes for the first musical number, "If You Haven't Got Love", eventually moving round to have Swanson facing the camera, are a nice way of subtly building up the song. It's a far cry from the ostentatious musical direction that would start to appear a few years later, but it fits the needs of these small, intimate numbers, and hints towards his incredibly light touch for 1944 Oscar-winner Going My Way.
And Miss Swanson's tuneful voice is a pleasant surprise, especially since few ex-silent stars could properly enunciate their lines, let alone sing. Her style seems entirely undaunted by the switch to sound. Still, she remains primarily a performer of visual expression, and Indiscreet provides us with some classic Swanson moments – a devilish flick of her eyes here, a sarcastic glance there. We also get to see some of the best examples of her comedic talents, such as her indignant attempt to butter crackers during the dinner party scene. This also comes as a surprise, since although Swanson started out at comedy studio Keystone she hated her tenure there, and never showed the sense of humour she does here. The other cast members of Indiscreet are certainly adequate, but none of them really stands out, with the exception of supporting player Arthur Lake who is rather good fun to watch. But even he remains a mere satellite around Swanson's star.
So, Indiscreet begs the question: If Swanson is so good here, and seems so smooth in her adaptation to sound, why did she stop making movies, barring one or two sporadic appearances before her spectacular comeback for Sunset Boulevard? It was probably at least partly because roles then tended to dry up for leading ladies once they were a few years into their thirties, and I doubt Swanson would have enjoyed living out her career playing matrons and mothers. And besides, it seems Swanson was by this point getting a little bored of Hollywood and movie life, and probably had in her more than a little of Norma Desmond's contempt for the talkies. But whatever her reasons, as Indiscreet shows, her departure was cinema's loss.
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