22 November 2017 | richardchatten
A Unique Juncture in Film History Set in Amber
The plot of this deceptively overlooked little trifle is the usual nonsense about a sweet young lass whose path crosses that of one of those personable young millionaires with entirely honourable intentions you find behind every corner in the silents, only to be entirely falsely suspected of being a gold-digging little hussy by his disapproving family. But 'The Love Trap' proves fascinating historically both as a relic of the "part-talkie" era and for its adroit staging by the up-and-coming young William Wyler feeling his way towards his mature style.
The first two thirds of this fluff has attractive performances in the leads by Laura La Plante and Neil Hamilton, while Wyler is already visibly attempting to find ways of extending the boundaries of the cinema screen through frequent use of pans and attempts at composition in depth. In his talkies Wyler abandoned the pans, which tend to jar at times, but with the great Gregg Toland behind the camera eventually came second only to Orson Welles as the 1940s' master of deep focus composition in 'The Best Years of Our Lives' (1946), which veteran cameraman Gilbert Warrenton had done his best to achieve in 'The Love Trap' with the limited resources then at his disposal.
Then suddenly everybody starts talking! The early scenes had all carried a Vitaphone soundtrack, and 'The Love Trap' had evidently started life as a silent, since there are scenes in which people speak dialogue which the makers haven't bothered to caption, as they'd presumably decided the film was going to go into release as a part-talkie and thus elected to keep titles to the minimum in scenes where the audience would be able to get the gist without them.
At this point the film seems on the verge of turning all serious on us, but happily opts instead for saucy pre-Code farce, in which Miss La Plante - mostly dressed only in her scanties - effortlessly and charmingly leaps the daunting hurdle of suddenly starring in a talkie.