The Great Gabbo (1929)

The Great Gabbo (1929)

The Great Gabbo (1929). 94 minutes. Directed by James Cruze. Starring Erich von Stroheim (as Gabbo), Betty Compson (as Mary), Donald Douglas (as Frank), Marjorie Kane (as Babe), and John F. Hamilton (as neighbor). Screenplay by Hugh Herbert. Songs by Lynn Cowan, Paul Titsworth, Donald McNamee, and King Zany. Based on the short story “The Rival Dummy” by Ben Hecht.

After slogging through some of the early sound era’s underwhelming cinematic creations, I have finally found a late 1920s sound movie that is exceptional not for its technological achievements or for its storytelling, but rather because it is deranged from beginning to end. I am talking about The Great Gabbo, the 1929 backstage musical chronicling the careers of a ventriloquist named Gabbo (portrayed by legendary silent film director Erich von Stroheim) and his ex-lover in a Broadway musical revue. The Great Gabbo seems to anticipate later movies about show-business careers such as A Star Is Born and 42nd Street Read the rest

Hallelujah! I’m a Bum (1933)

Hallelujah! I'm a Bum (1933)

Hallelujah! I’m a Bum (1933). 82 minutes. Directed by Lewis Milestone. Starring Al Jolson (as Bumper), Frank Morgan (as Mayor John Hastings), Madge Evans (as June Marcher), Harry Langdon (as Egghead), Edgar Connor (as Acorn), Chester Conklin (as Sunday), and Louise Carver (as Mrs. Sunday). Music by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. Written by S. N. Behrman. Based on a story by Ben Hecht.

Hallelujah! I’m a Bum is a pre-Code, Depression-era musical starring Al Jolson and Henry Morgan that seeks both to amuse the audience with comical characters and a healthy dose of light opera, and to unsettle us with a portrait of a down-and-out society on the verge of revolution. It focuses on the adventures of a New York City hobo named Bumper who chooses to be a vagrant because it is, to his mind, the freest way to live. As we follow him, we see the disparities affecting American society during the Great Depression, articulated through the … Read the rest