EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|GREAT GABBO, THE (director: James Cruze; screenwriters: Hugh Herbert/based on a story by Ben Hecht; cinematographer: Ira H. Morgan; music: Lynn Cowan; cast: Erich von Stroheim (Gabbo), Betty Compson (Mary), Donald Douglas (Frank), Margie Kane (Babe), Marbeth Wright (Dancer), John F. Hamilton (Neighbor), George Grandee (Voice of Otto); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: James Cruze; Kino Video; 1929-silent)|
|"An early talkie that
gets your attention because it's so perverse."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An early talkie that gets your attention because it's so
perverse. It's a peculiar musical, with the music being forgettable and
the storyline being unpleasant. Director James Cruze ("The Covered
Wagon"/"I Cover the Waterfront"/"Gangs
of New York") can't do much with the slight story but let Erich
von Stroheim act over-the-top loony as an unsympathetic abusive
egomaniac throughout. It's not a fun watch, but it's irresistible. The
talented ventriloquist Gabbo (Erich
von Stroheim) drives his loyal assistant and lover of the last two
years Mary (Betty Compson) away from him by constantly
putting her down with verbal abuse and blaming her that he can't get to
the top. Mary has enough insults and leaves him in a second-rate
vaudeville circuit venue in Patterson, N.J. and says
goodbye only to the wooden dummy Otto (the ventriloquist's
softer side) .
Two years pass and Gabbo reaches the top alone and stars in
a Broadway show called The Manhattan Revue. Mary
is a singer/dancer in the same show with her partner Frank (Donald
Douglas). When she meets Gabbo and Otto in a cafe the delusional
someone who talks only to his dummy, is more full of himself than ever
since he's become rich and famous, but he now thinks he loves Mary and
schemes to get her back from Frank. When Gabbo tells her his plans, she
tells him she's married to Frank and loves him. Gabbo can't handle
rejection and cracks up and his personality is taken over by the dummy.
In a mad snit Gabbo ruins the stage show's finale by disrupting the
musical number by going into an outburst onstage of how great he is.
This gets him fired, and it ends showing his downfall and insanity as
he walks out of the theater like a madman while the workmen are
already removing the theater sign advertising "The Great Gabbo."
was von Stroheim's first acting gig after flaming out filming Queen
Kelly (1928). If this curio wasn't so strange, it would be a bore.
The story by Ben Hecht is wooden, and the screenplay by Hugh Herbert is awkwardly pieced together with incongruous musical numbers that seemed meant for another pic.
REVIEWED ON 10/6/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ