Starring Lillian Gish and John Gilbert
King Vidor's version of Henry Murger's short stories of he Latin Quarter of Paris from which the Puccini opera was suggested, is a picture of striking beauty, wonderfully directed by Vidor and acted with much skill by John Gilbert. The theme is simple, as delicate as the tension of a lyre, and tells the story of Mimi, a seamstress, and Rodolphe, a struggling playwright, against a colorful and romantic background.
A note of tender pathos pervades the entire piece and the ultimate tragedy is too heartrending for words. Lillian Gish is seen in another of wistfully appealing but familiar characterizations. Renee Adoree, Karl Dane and George Hassell are included in the cast.
This production is a triumph for Metro-Goldwyn, for Vidor and for John Gilbert, and will prove a real joy.
Starring Lillian Gish and John Gilbert
MOTION PICTURE MAGAZINE
Still another picture has opened on Broadway which threatens to run until every woman in the city and most of the visiting sisters have paid the tribute of a few tears and sighs. For "La Boheme," King Vidor's newest production, reaches the screen at a moment when there is a big need for a good, sad love story.
The picture was suggested, of course, by Henri Murger's "Scenes de la Vie de Boheme" and the opera libretto which was derived therefrom. It was the first great love story of the Paris Latin Quarter. "Trilby" came later and "Louise," the third story of a veritable trilogy of Montmartre romances, is a granddaughter of Murger's Mimi. Murger started the whole Latin Quarter fever and countless young foreigners and French provincials were inspired by the love story of Rodolphe and Mimi to climb Mont Parnasse.
And so "La Boheme" comes to the screen overgrown by traditions and sentiments, and it is only by considering these overgrowths of the years that one can measure the achievements and deficiencies of Mr. Vidor's production.
However, it is not fair to check up the deficiencies to Mr. Vidor. HIs direction is all that could be wished for. The picture has lyric charm, pictorial beauty and fine feeling of sentiment. The deficiencies lie in the script and in the performance of Lillian Gish, as Mimi.
The script, prepared by Mme. Fred de Gressac, quite deliberately overlooks some of the best incidents of the story. All the coquetry of the meeting between Mimi and Rodolphe is carefully washed out and the joyous Mimi who so impulsively falls in love becomes merely a wretched little waif and a fit subject, not for a love affair, but for a settlement worker. Musetta's gorgeous entrance is changed to a commonplace introduction and the poignant episode of the muff is scarcely touched upon. It's a cautious script, tailored for the limitations of Miss Gish, but not a colorful one.
Lillian Gish's Mimi is just what this confirmed old cynic thought it would be. It has moments of beauty and it has moments of pathos. And, altho a veteran of the screen, Miss Gish photographs like a child. But she is never, for a single second, a spirited and joyous Mimi. Miss Gish's Mimi is beaten from the start. In her love scenes, she cringes and shrinks - something that no girl should do, on or off the screen. There is a fine distinction between positive virtue and negative virtue that she doesn't seem to understand.
Technically, Miss Gish is a good actress, altho handicapped by mannerisms which give a monotony to all her performances. But her work is so studied and so careful that she gives you an impression of coldness even in her most moving scenes. In fact, in her one moment of abandon in "La Boheme" - a dance in the woods - the first-night audience openly snickered.
But now let us go on to the real reason for the great popularity of "La Boheme." It is the performance of John Gilbert. We are getting tired of praising Mr. Gilbert, but what can we do about it? He runs away with the picture; he makes the production. Here is acting so exuberant, so filled with human emotions, so gay, colorful and live, that it fairly burns up the celluloid. Mr. Gilbert is a perfect Rodolphe.
Another great performance is given by Renee Adoree as Musetta. Unfortunately Musetta is almost cut out of the picture. What a pity! In a few fleeting scenes, Miss Adoree does some memorable acting. If she had had more footage, we would have had one of the best portrayals of the year. The minor characters are played with spirit in the opera bouffe style.
"La Boheme" will be immensely popular, thanks to Mr. Vidor's fine direction and Mr. Gilbert's great acting. Miss Gish's loyal followers will find much to admire in her work. And everyone will be satisfied, particularly the man at the box-office who sells the tickets. What a busy summer he has ahead of him!
For more information, see "La Boheme" as our "Featurre of the Month"
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