26 May 2006 | ptb-8
don't be silly, everyone knows!
Clunky solid gramophone sound and some sensational Ziegfeld stage numbers make this early talkie musical drama a real treat for viewers forgiving of 1929 movies. Vile schizophrenic ventriloquist brute, Von Stroheim, with his very creepy dummy (like the terrifying one in the DEAD OF NIGHT sequence with Michael Redgrave) seem somehow to be the toast of the stage. This 1929 showcase for both the technology of the day and the stage and screen stars rightly celebrated over the period are shown to be both fascinating and versatile as this film progresses. Other comments on this site will tell you the story and some criticize it's 1929 limits, but really THE GREAT GABBO is an excellent film of its day that rightly and clearly shows the force of Von Stroheim and the expert stage and screen dance entertainment popular in the 20s in the Ziegfeld sequences seemingly filmed right in front of a real stage. If you have seen THE BOYFRIEND the 1970 Ken Russell comedy you will get an idea of how fabulous THE GREAT GABBO must have looked in color. Most of the massive stage scenes are pale in my B/W copy and clearly are those sequences in Multicolour which the opening credits alert us to (be missing). Betty Boop sister Majorie Kane appears and most of the musical numbers are hilariously delightful, crowded with teens leaping about and bumping into each other in a great array of all sorts of fantasy costumes. The silliest and most enjoyable of which is a spider and fly number in which the above quote is hissed during a squabble in between verses. THE GREAT GABBO is a major find for students of 20s art deco, early talkie technology and very strong and effective acting. Von Stroheim must have been such a pain to Hollywood, a brute on screen and off. This film is full of wow! scenes. Highly recommended for anyone wanting further insight into the era. Other films worth seeing that add to the experience are GLORIFYING THE American GIRL, and THE 1929 SHOW OF SHOWS. The sound on my DVD copy is very good.