Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gentleman's Fate (1931) Film Review - John Gilbert

Plot Summary - Pre-code melodrama starring John Gilbert as Jack Thomas, rich, penthouse-dwelling playboy with a brand new fiancee named Marjorie (Leila Hyams) and his own English "gentleman's gentleman" (just given orders to burn his gallery of photos and phone numbers). Called to meet his guardian "Papa Mario", Jack is informed he has a brother named Frank and a father who has been shot and is calling for his long-lost son from his deathbed. This is all news to Jack who didn't know about this family at all (he thought he was an orphan). Arriving at the rundown Hotel Ritzi, Jack finds out the whole truth - that his father and brother are bootleggers/gangsters, that he is actually an Italian, and his real name's not Jack, it's Giacomo! Okey dokey. Frank (Louis Wolheim) is a (very) rough-faced, tough talker who forces Jack to take the rap for some stolen emeralds given to Jack by the dying dad. Unfortunately Jack had already gifted the emeralds to Marjorie, who finding out he's a "thief", writes him a "Dear John" letter and leaves town. So - Jack decides to join the racket with his brother, then ends up saving his brother's life from a rival gang. Now the rivals are out to get the man who shot one of their own, and it all comes to brew at a "Peace Banquet" at the hotel.

Review - This is an entertaining watch. The film is basically stage-play like, there's no background music - it's all about the acting. Silent star John Gilbert is rather dashing and handsome here, he does quite an excellent job in this "talkie" role, I thought. Louis Wolheim, however, steals the film as usual - he's so great in every single role I have seen him in. In addition to Leila Hyams (who isn't really given a huge amount to do here), the film includes two other actresses from the silent era - Anita Page, who is fine as a rival gang moll who comes to the hotel to find out where Giacomo/Jack is, then is rather taken with him. And Marie Prevost also steals some scenes, she's pretty funny as this sort of moll gal who works the desk of the Hotel Ritzi. Rating - 8/10 stars

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