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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

PICCADILLY (1929)


Late British silent (with tacked on ‘talkie’ prologue) from famed German megger E. A Dupont is worth seeing just for the releasing company’s tag line on the end credits, "WorldWide Pictures: Photoplays made where the stories laid." Like VAREITY, Dupont’s best claim to cinematic fame, PICADILLY is a sex triangle story among performers (a nightclub rather than the circus) as club dancer Gilda Gray does a fast fade when her partner (Cyril Ritchard) splits on her. She’s screwing the club owner (Jameson Thomas) to keep her position, but business is business and he finds a new sensation right in his very own scullery. Anna May Wong. She's superb here, a veritable Louise Brooks siren. Soon, Wong dumps her boyfriend for Thomas and when she’s killed that leaves us with two likely suspects. Working with a superb lenser, Werner Brandes, and the legendary Alfred Junge on the spectacular sets, Dupont offers some beautifully realized visuals, but the style becomes repetitious. Here the big overused technical gimmick are fast pans to link players in dramatic situations - it’s striking, the first twenty times, but then turns into a mannerism). Meanwhile, the story quickly exhausts its possibilities. Still, it’s quite an eyeful and you get to see Charles Laughton do a masterful bit in his film debut.

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