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Antti Alanen: Film Diary:

Counsellor-at-Law (The Nitrate Picture Show)

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Counsellor-at-Law. John Barrymore. Skilsmässoadvokaten. William Wyler, US 1933 Print source: UCLA Film and Television Archives, Los Angeles Running time: 82 minutes The film was not released in Finland. The Nitrate Picture Show (NPS), George Eastman Museum, Dryden Theatre, Rochester, 5 May 2019. NPS: About the print The print is in very good condition, with little scratching and warpage. Despite overall stiffness of the base, the copy has an excellent look on screen. As it is an early sound film, the print has some volume issues printed in, but this can be adjusted in the projection booth. Shrinkage: 0.70% About the film “John Barrymore is to be seen in an incisive and compelling pictorial translation of Elmer Rice’s play, Counsellor-at-Law, which undoubtedly owes no small part of its strength to the fact that the screen script was written by the author himself. The film, which has succeeded Little Women at the Radio City Music Hall, moves along with lusty energy, the scenes being so complete that none of them seems a fraction of a minute too long.” — Mordaunt Hall, New York Times, December 8, 1933 “John Barrymore gives us one of his most controversial portrayals in a film that has many claims to distinction. . . . The result is likely to give rise to much conflicting opinion. By sheer perfection of technique he contrives convincingly to suggest Simon’s sharp, legal mind, his generosity, his dread of being debarred when a political enemy gets the goods on him for faking an alibi and his blind love for an unworthy wife, while the spectacle of Barrymore in full eruption at least makes the personality vivid and interesting, which is all that matters, I suppose.” — M. D. P., Picturegoer, January 27, 1934 “A veritable Hope Diamond of a movie is sparkling on the Palace screen! A picture that holds you raptly absorbed from opening to closing scene. You simply HATE to have it end! . . . The action speeds into the tensest sort of drama, resulting in a knockout finale that sends you tingling from the theater. Never has John Barrymore done anything as human, as many faceted, as vivid, as persistently appealing, as his portrayal of Simon. The fact that he is a Gentile makes his performance the more remarkable.” — Mae Tinee, Chicago Daily Tribune, January 8, 1934 (NPS) AA: Revisited William Wyler's Counsellor-at-Law, a film produced in his last period at Universal before he switched to Samuel Goldwyn. Having started at Universal with programmers, Wyler had by now advanced to prestige productions of high profile subjects. Wyler mobilizes the mise-en-scène and the cinematography in this adaptation of the powerful drama by Elmer Rice, but never for a moment do we forget that this is a filmed play. It is good to see this and compare it with Wyler's future successes in filming plays in The Little Foxes, The Heiress, and These Three / The Children's Hour. Together with Ben-Hur this film was the only one in which Wyler had an explicitly Jewish theme. The casting coup of John Barrymore is brilliant, unexpected and perhaps somewhat distancing, but it does make the film more interesting than an authentic ethnic casting choice would have been. On display was William Wyler's personal copy of a 1947 re-release print. The visual quality is stunning and exemplary, doing justice to the cinematography by Norbert Brodine. I may have seen this very print before because the last time I saw this movie was at UCLA's William Wyler retrospective in May 1996.

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