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Sunday, August 21, 2016


A sweet-natured trifle, pleasant enough, but where’s the third act? Ronald Colman’s a Russian Prince in exile, reduced to driving a hack. But with a stake from his fellow ex-pats, he takes on the baccarat tables at Monte Carlo and has the run of his life. A ’gentleman’ would return and probably lose it all the next night, but Colman takes his winnings and leaves town. The cheek! He’s followed by brother & sister act Colin Clive & Joan Bennett, put up to it by the casino owners, with a big reward for luring him back to the tables. And it should be easy, since Colman’s fallen hard for Bennett’s blonde beauty. If only she hadn’t fallen for him as well. Now, the only way to stop him from losing everything is to keep him from finding out. Directed with a light touch, but little flair by Stephen Roberts, it’s held together (just) by Colman’s immense charm, that distinctive falling cadence to his voice, and his staggering precision in weighing the smallest of effects. The actor as jeweler. But the ending is so short-circuited, you wonder if 20th Century studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck pulled the plug in anticipation of his upcoming merger/takeover with FOX.

DOUBLE-BILL: Colman, who worked sparingly, was unusually busy in ‘35 with this little film a palate cleanser between CLIVE OF INDIA and A TALE OF TWO CITIES. OR: If it ever shows up on DVD, TOVARICH/’37, a superior Russian ex-pat story, with former-royals Claudette Colbert & Charles Boyer employed as French house servants.

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