WWI romantic triangle, and awfully familiar even for 1931. When playboy type Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (sans usual mustache) and brother Anthony Bushell, a shy one-true-love sort, get called to The Front right in the middle of their mother’s big War Fund Drive at her lavish estate, heightened emotions lead lovely Rose Hobart to quickly accept Bushell’s spur-of-the-moment proposal. Only problem: she’s just fallen hard for Fairbanks. If she only knew Fairbanks had finally stopped playing the field after blindly bumping into her during a London BlackOut, when he was unaware of his brother’s feelings. Naturally, The War intervenes to reset everything, but not before mix-ups, renunciation, denunciation & ultimate sacrifice/ultimate forgiveness. The British reserve is frightfully stoked, along with more verbal ‘pip-pips,’ ‘cheerios,’ ‘old chums,’ and ‘rippings’ than any single film should allow. Workhorse helmer Allan Dwan was given a surprisingly luxe production, especially on-and-off the French battlefields (trenches; troops; horses; munitions) with largely fresh shot footage and portrait-worthy lighting from lenser Ernest Haller; the big sequences exceptionally well-staged, the more intimate stuff still Early Talkies stiff.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: It’s never really been explained why Dwan, a superb technician over his 50 year career, quickly slid into B-pics after scores of major silents and strong early sound work. Perhaps Dwan wouldn’t fight for the breadth & depth some stories call for. Compare this film’s 72 minute running time with Howard Hawks’ DAWN PATROL/’30 (also with Fairbanks), at 108 minutes. Maybe Dwan's ‘go along’ attitude wound up shortchanging his films & downgrading his position.
DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned, Hawks' DAWN PATROL. That’s the 1930 version. The 1938 version (Errol Flynn/David Niven/dir. Edmund Goulding) is also good, but less comparable.