A wealthy woman, trying to discourage a former boyfriend from pursuing her, hires a young songwriter who needs money to pay off his gambling debts to pretend to be her boyfriend. The ... See full summary »
When Countess Ruby gets up after sitting next to General Kolb while he was playing piano, she picks up her white gloves. But on the next cut, she is now holding her hat which earlier she had placed on the mirror bureau on the other side of the room. See more »
from "Tristan und Isolde"
Written by Richard Wagner
Played on piano by Conrad Veidt
Played at a concert and as background See more »
ESCAPE (Mervyn LeRoy, 1940) ***
MGM was among the first studios to treat the impending war with films like IDIOT'S DELIGHT (1939) and THE MORTAL STORM (1940); another such effort, despite its generic moniker, was ESCAPE. As with the former, it was apparently a Leslie Halliwell favourite – maybe he had a particular fondness for Norma Shearer, since she stars in both!
This is the superior film, however, given its early depiction of a concentration camp and the suspense inherent in the title. Shearer's co- star here is yet another silver-screen heart-throb and MGM fixture, Robert Taylor, though – unlike Gable in the afore-mentioned IDIOT'S DELIGHT – his relentless seriousness renders him a dull lead (only really coming into his own when breaking into the Nazi salute as he complains "I've had it up to here!" and again towards the end in his confrontation scenes with nominal villain Conrad Veidt). The latter, fine as always, plays a character somewhere between his sympathetic German of the Powell & Pressburger films THE SPY IN BLACK (1939) and CONTRABAND (1940) and the full-fledged Nazi he memorably essayed in CASABLANCA (1942). His initial disapproval of the brutal regime tactics eventually makes way for a compulsive adherence to duty (though a heart condition ultimately proves his undoing – ironically, the actor would himself succumb to this affliction within three years!).
He begins to suspect that his lover (Shearer) may have forsaken him for Taylor – who has been making a nuisance of himself while tracking down his mother (Silent star Nazimova), a former theatrical celebrity but whose misguided attempts at helping German refugees have landed her in a death camp. Thanks to an admiring doctor, she is induced to a comatose state, so that she can then be ostensibly transported to a proper burial ground (accorded her once-respected stature) – but Taylor is forced to seek shelter along the way in Shearer's home, which also serves as a finishing school for girls (who, as in IDIOT'S DELIGHT, seem to consider a dashing military career as the epitome of romance!).
The film has the expected gloss and entertainment value of a typical MGM product but, as I said, reasonable tension is also elicited out of its 'premature burial' situation and the unorthodox resolution of the obligatory love triangle at the finale (of which, as in the earlier Shearer picture, two versions were filmed and are compared in a "You Tube" clip).
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