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The Times (29/Nov/1920) - The Film World

(c) The Times (29/Nov/1920)




It is many months now since it was first announced that the Famous Players-Lasky British Producers, Limited, a British concern working in close contact with the American company which has done so much for the development of the film industry, had acquired premises for a studio at Islington. A sumptuous studio, which was claimed to be as well equipped as its American rivals, was erected, replete with all kinds of appliances which would make the work of the producer easier, and under such happy auspices work was begun on two films, one, The Call of Youth, written for the occasion by Mr. Henry Arthur Jones; the other a film version of the Drury Lane melodrama, The Great Day. We prefer to deal with the latter first, because it is in every way the more ambitious production, and because, in our opinion, it is the more disappointing of the two.

We have rarely seen a film produced either in this country or in the United States whit has been more full of missed opportunities. The great drawback seems to be that the producer has tried to reconstruct a Drury Lane drama without the necessary facilities at his back. Playgoers will remember that in The Great Day there was a succession of big spectacles, and, comparing the play with the film. Mr. Arthur Collins wins every time. The film will go out to the public as having been built up from a Drury Lane drama, and the public will accordingly expect a big spectacular production, but they will not find it. There are certainly some effective scenes, taken in a real Sheffield steel works, but Mr. Collins's make-believe was more dramatic, though in this case the fault may be partly with the writer of the scenario. In the play there was a thrilling interruption as the hero was about to turn the tap to release a stream of molten steel, and the situation was only saved by the heroine, with fine dramatic gesture, bidding her lover to "carry on." On the screen all this effect is lost, and all that happens is that the hero turns on the tap and is congratulated by a number of top-hatted gentlemen. In the play, moreover, great stress was laid on a strike at the works and a raid by the starving workers on the banqueting hall of the proprietor of the steel works. This is entirely eliminated from the film.

But the great spectacular effect of the play was the scene in an underground cafe in Paris, which is suddenly submerged when the Seine bursts its banks. Here, at any rate, one thought, there would be an opportunity for the film studio, which is equipped with a wonderful tank, to show how dangerous a rival it could be to Mr. Collins. But in the film the whole idea is changed. The Seine never overflows, and all one sees, after a rough and tumble fight, is two of the characters falling into it sewer from which they are rescued without any great difficulty. In the play the climax came in London on Peace Day with cheering crowds in St. James's Park and realistic rockets hurtling in the air. In the film the Peace Day idea is never suggested, the drama works out to its legitimate conclusion without any spectacular effect, and the audience will probably be left wondering as to the special significance of the title The Great Day, which in the play was obvious.

The authorities at Drury Lane can sleep peacefully in their beds. Obviously they can do this kind of thing much more effectively than the film producer. In some respects the acting of the film is quite good. There is a particularly fine piece of work by Mr. Geoffrey Kerr as the soldier who loses his memory, while Miss Meggie Albanesi, though hopelessly miscast as the villainess, gives an entirely charming performance. Mr. Bouchier, who plays the part of the steel magnate, will never be a really good film actor until he learns the value of repose. He plays too directly to the camera, which would not matter very much if he did not now and again exaggerate his facial expressions.


We believe that Mr. Henry Arthur Jones has written The Call of Youth especially for the screen, and, if so, it is an interesting proof that the dramatist is at last beginning to realize that the screen may have much in store for him if he cares to make full use of the new method of interpretation of his ideas. Very wisely, he has evolved quite a simple story of the girl who really loves a young man but gives her hand to an older suitor in the belief that it will help her parents out of a very difficult financial situation. On the morning of her marriage, however, the girl realizes that the call of youth is too strong, and she visits her prospective husband's rooms, begs to be released from her promise, and proves once again the truth of the old superstition that it is unlucky to meet your bride on the day of the wedding until she reaches the altar. With extraordinary magnanimity he releases her, takes the blame on himself, and promptly sets out to the other end of the world to bring youth together. He succeeds in his quest; but frankly we think most of the sympathy will be for middle age, particularly when it is so charmingly interpreted as it is by Mr. Malcolm Cherry. His performance is full of sympathetic touches, which show him to be as good an actor on the screen as on the stage and he receives excellent support front Miss Mary Glynne and Mr. Jack Hobbs as the representatives of the younger generation. The Call of Youth should tempt Mr. Henry Arthur Jones to try his hand again, and if it induces other playwrights to follow his example, so much the better.