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Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Vol. 6 [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Downstairs
Anyone who believes that the career of silent screen idol John Gilbert ended because his voice has too high for the talkies hasn't seen this marvelously black comedy. In perhaps his best performance of the sound era (with his supporting role in 1934's The Captain Hates the Sea running a close second), Gilbert plays a rogue who can get away with just about anything because of his charisma and charm -- and his voice suits his character perfectly. Karl (Gilbert) is a chauffeur who goes to work for a Viennese Baron and Baroness (Reginald Owen) and Olga Baclanova) on the day that two of their servants -- head butler Albert (Paul Lukas) and maid Anna (an astonishingly lovely Virginia Bruce) -- are being wed. Almost immediately Karl creates havoc in the household -- he flirts with the innocent, susceptible Anna, blackmails the Baroness, who is having an affair, and seduces the middle-aged head cook, Sophie (Bodil Rosing), only so he can get his hands on her life savings. In spite of his wickedness, there is something magnetic about Karl, and Anna -- who is vaguely dissatisfied with her loving but dogmatic husband -- finally succumbs. But all of his schemes inevitably backfire on him and after Albert gets Sophie's money back, he gladly tosses Karl out of the Baron's mansion. The next we see of him, he is c harming his way into yet another chauffeur position (hinting at a potential sequel that, unfortunately, never came). Gilbert, who wrote the story four years earlier, originally had an appropriately macabre ending -- after a brutal fight, Albert drowns Karl in a vat of wine. When he first came up with the idea, Gilbert had wanted Erich Von Stroheim to direct. By 1932, this was out of the question (MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer had little use for Stroheim). Instead, the highly capable Monta Bell was given the job -sadly, it was one his last directing assignments. During the shoot, Gilbert and Virginia Bruce fell in love and they were married in August, 1932, the month that the film was released. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

The Wet Parade
Directed by Victor Fleming, Wet Parade chronicles the effects of alcoholism and the Prohibition on the lives of two families from very different backgrounds. The Tarletons reside in New York City, where the family patriarch (Walter Huston) repeatedly drowns himself in liquor and local bars. The Chilcote family has the same type of problem, though they live in the deep south. Colonal Roger Chilcote (Lewis Stone) also drinks heavily, and illegally makes his income by selling moonshine. Ultimately, both families are torn apart by the alcoholism. The two stories collide when Kip Tarleton (Robert Young) and Maggie May (Dorothy Jordan), both children of alcoholic fathers, join in a common fight against alcohol, feeling it was a key factor in the destruction of their lives. Wet Parade also features actor Jimmy Durante in a small role as a bearded federal agent. ~ Tracie Cooper, Rovi

Massacre
One of the first major Hollywood films to seriously address America's ongoing mistreatment of its Indian population, Massacre is more admirable for its intentions than its execution. The film was inspired by the activities of John Collier, commissioner for the Bureau of Indian Affairs during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first term. A staunch advocate for Native American rights, Collier had been far more effective than his predecessors in this pursuit, effectively purging much of the corruption and bigotry then prevalent in the administration of the Indian Reservation system. The film's John Collier counterpart, a man named Dickinson (Henry O'Neill), turns out to be less important to the storyline than Joe Thunder Horse, the "assimilated" college-educated Sioux portrayed by Richard Barthelmess. Upon the death of his father, who was the tribal chieftain, Joe returns to the reservation of his youth, only to discover that his people are dying of various diseases and are being systematically cheated of their possessions and basic rights by crooked Indian agents. He heads to Washington in hopes of righting these wrongs, only to experience prejudice and hatred all along the way. Eventually successful in his efforts, Joe casts away the last vestige of his "white" existence by giving up socialite Norma (Claire Dodd) in favor of Sioux maiden Lydia (Ann Dvorak). The optimism of the final reels is sorely at odds with the rest of the picture, which paints a bleak portrait of an oppressed people under the thumb of corrupt, rapine petty tyrants (colorfully represented by Dudley Digges as the worst of the batch). The deck-stacking is a bit hard to take at times (surely there must have been some Indian agents who weren't substance abusers and lechers), but it's undeniably effective in the usual over-the-top Warner Bros. tradition. The film's oddest scene (and the one which has drawn the most attention from William K. Everson and other prominent film historians) finds a stereotyped African American valet (Clarence Muse) looking disdainfully upon the Indians as his racial inferiors! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mandalay
The official cast list of Warner Bros. Mandalay states that Kay Francis plays a character named Tanya. For most of the film, however, the heroine -- if she can be called that -- goes by the name of Spot White (or "Spot Cash," as she's cynically designated by one of the lesser characters). Betrayed by her smuggler lover Tony Evans (Ricardo Cortez), Tanya/Spot White becomes one of white slaver Nick's (Warner Oland) stable of girls in old Rangoon. She eventually escapes this sordid lifestyle, and is later instrumental in the redemption of dissolute doctor Gregory Burton (Lyle Talbot). Falling in love with Burton, Spot White resorts to drastic measure to purge the ubiquitous Tony Evans from her life. Most sources list Shirley Temple in the cast as "Betty," but her role has apparently been excised from the currently available prints of Mandalay. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Paul Lukas
    Paul Lukas - Albert
  • Virginia Bruce
    Virginia Bruce - Anna
  • Hedda Hopper
    Hedda Hopper - Countess
  • Reginald Owen
    Reginald Owen - Baron
  • Olga Baclanova
    Olga Baclanova - Baroness
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