Review

  • ... because in the silent era Powell often played a villain, although often an inept one. Without the power of his voice, Powell looked the part of a villain. But then the sound era brought him new fame and prominence.

    Real life clown Hal Skelly plays clown Hap Brown, who is doing OK in vaudeville. After a performance one night he sees a man leaning against a lamp post homeless and hungry. But he has to work very hard to get the man to come home with him because he is very proud. The man turns out to be European clown Gardoni (William Powell), who is not making it in America. Gardoni and Hap decide to partner up, but they lay an egg because Gardoni insists on doing their act with the more sophisticated European style entertainment rather than the "hokum" that Hap says that the audience wants. Gardoni just abandons Hap at that point without a word.

    So Hap returns home and gets a job washing dishes, thanks to a friendly waitress, Marie (Fay Wray), who Hap falls for. Hap finds out that Gardoni has a new act mainly consisting of material that Hap taught him, and soon Gardoni has a new wife, who happens to be Marie.

    So Gardoni is definitely not a nice guy, using everybody by hook or crook. But he needs neither hook nor crook to use Hap, who is just an affable doormat. I think that the film was trying to make out Hap as a nice guy, when a nice guy would be someone in disposition between Gardoni and Hap.

    This might actually be a 5.5 versus a 6 out of 10, but I rounded up because there is not another film in which William Powell sports an Italian accent, and it is interesting to watch an actual American clown of the early twentieth century - Hal Skelly - at work. Kay Francis plays a gambling seductress with very short hair. She has the distinction of working with William Powell and Basil Rathbone in 1930 with both of them having an Italian accent in those films. But the film with Rathbone is "a notorious affair" indeed, with Rathbone's accent being particularly hilarious.