Starring Pola Negri and Clive Brook
To resort to studio parlance, here is a picture that "clicked" in New York and other key cities. The fact that the World War (which is merely the background of the story) has been treated from a different angle made a hit with the New York reviewers, even those of the fraternity who are more or less included in the group known as "hardboiled." The performance of Princess Mdivani, more popularly known as Pola Negri, as the peasant girl, is considered by more than one reviewer as the best she has given since she decided to leave Germany to face American cameras. The portrayal of Clive Brook, cast as the German prisoner, is highly lauded, as is the performance of the late Einar Hanson, who in this, his last picture, plays a French soldier who returns sightless. Finding that Miss Negri's role in "Barbed Wire" differs greatly from "her customary historical and vampire offerings." Donald Thompson writing in the Telegram, goes on to say that the film is "excellently conceived and photographed . . . and one that you should see." While finding that the picture is not the best to play New York for some time, Langdon W. Post, the Evening World's critic, is of the opinion that it contains "truths that are almost platitudes and that nevertheless contain enough drama and enough imaginative food to supply this infant art with substance for some time to come. The audience received it with enthusiasm . . ." The Sun's reviewer, John S. Cohen, Jr., says that "Barbed Wire," like so many pictures in which all the cooks in Hollywood stir the plot, loses its theme ever and anon and goes off into irrelevant nonsense and forced happy endings. But for the most part it is sincerely and movingly done." Harry B. Mills, writing in the Seattle Star, after paying tribute to Miss Negri's acting, says that "to miss this picture is to pass a film masterpiece."
starring Pola Negri and Clive Brook
When all is said and done -- and it is done, isn't it? You can have all your other war pictures, and I'll take "Barbed Wire." Perhaps it's because there are so few battle scenes in "Barbed Wire;" anyway, it's my favorite, after "The Big Parade," "What Price Glory," "Wings," "Patent Leather Kid" -- where were we? Oh, yes. Well, it isn't really a war picture at all. It's a peace picture. It holds out the hope that, in time, we may forget all about war and war pictures and just have a good time, which will throw that kettle-drummer out of a job, but otherwise will be all for the best.
"Barbed Wire" actually has the nerve to show us a German hero in love with a French heroine. Pola Negri plays the French farmerette, and Clive Brook a prisoner of war, working on Pola's farm -- if you can call it work. Thanks to Erich Pommer's supervision, or to Rowland Lee's direction, or to Pola's and Mr. Brook's acting, or something, "Barbed Wire" is direct and simple and powerful and touching. The lovers encounter all the prejudice and hatred to be expected; things look pretty black for them when a modern miracle happens -- a miracle that you will applaud if you are idealistically inclined, and hoot at otherwise. There is no tableau showing the leaders of the opposing armies clasping hands, with the dove of peach, in person, circling overhead. Nothing like that. But the final note of "Peace on earth," etc., is dramatically effective all the same. Pola is superb; Clive Brook's performance is splendid -- just right in every respect. "Barbed Wire" won't keep anybody away from the theatre.
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