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  • Beset by creditors & worried over the fortunes of his dead, illegitimate son's children, an elderly shipping magnate - (affectionately known as OLD ENGLISH) - finds a determinate solution to his financial woes.

    Mr. George Arliss, master movie actor of the 1930's, gives another extraordinary cinematic portrait, stealing his every scene & charming the viewers with equal ease. Born George Augustus Andrews (1868-1946), here was a performer destined for the screen, endlessly fascinating, never dull or commonplace. With the tiniest gesture or lift of an eyebrow he could impart unspoken volumes to the audience. Here he has one of his classic sequences, a long scene at the climax where he libidinously delights in a splendid solitary supper, relishing every bite & sip - an Oscar-worthy performance in every way.

    Based on a John Galsworthy novel & play, the production values are adequate, but they betray their stage origins. Never mind. All Arliss needs is his supreme talent to make this regrettably obscure film memorable.

    In the supporting cast, Ivan F. Simpson is excellent as an aged, querulous ship builder. Doris Lloyd & Ethel Griffies, two terrific British actresses who spent most of their careers in small roles in Hollywood films, often uncredited, are both given a fine opportunity to exhibit their skills as the troublesome women in Arliss' life.
  • Few people today likely have heard of George Arliss, let alone this 1930 film in which he starred. I would be among that group also, but for my interest in cinema, its history, and much to do with the people and products of the industry. "Old English" is based on a John Galsworthy story, "Old Heythorp," and the screenplay was written by Galsworthy himself from his stage play which he renamed "Old English."

    While Arliss was one of the very good actors of early cinema, he was one who "progressed" from silent films to talkies. That's my nice way of saying that it took him some time to get over the exaggerated expressions and hammy looks at the camera that were part of the silent era. These were traits in some early Arliss talkies that drew negative comments from the critics. Apparently, he was particularly hammy in some of the biopics in which he acted (films on the lives of Disraeli, Voltaire, Alexander Hamilton, etc.). But he got over that in time and gave some smashing performances.

    Unfortunately, this is one of the early Arliss films that has a number of hammy scenes. While the plot is interesting, and his character is very enjoyable, "Old English" has a stagy feel to it as well. The poorer production qualities, with these other shortcomings can't earn this film a very high rating. But it is worth viewing for Arliss and an interesting little plot.

    John Galsworthy, incidentally, grew up learning his family's shipping business. Although trained to be a barrister in England, he forsook his education for travel, adventure, and writing. He met Joseph Conrad on one of his early trips to Australia, and the two future novelists became good friends. Conrad was then serving as first mate on a ship. Most people today will know Galsworthy from "The Forsyte Saga," although he wrote many novels, short stories and screenplays. Many of his stories were put on stage and some were made into movies. Besides "Forsyte," other notable films were "The Skin Game" in 1931 by Alfred Hitchcock, "Escape" in 1926 with two films, and others.
  • bkoganbing19 May 2016
    62 year old George Arliss is aged some 20 years to play an aged shipping tycoon who's now deeply in debt in Old English. I found it ironic that Arliss who did this on Broadway in the 1924-25 season for 183 performances was aged for this part and for Alexander Hamilton he was rather ludicrously made younger. Of course in the Hamilton part Arliss was much younger when he did it on stage.

    At this point in life Arliss wants to provide something for his grandchildren who are the children of his illegitimate son, the son's wife Doris Lloyd is having a rough go of it. But he's got one creditor in Murray Kinnell who wants his debt settled before all and there's his daughter from his marriage Ethel Griffies who gives him no pleasure in his old age.

    The play was written by John Galsworthy better known of course for The Forsyte Saga and you can see some similarities there. But the production itself is too slow and too stage oriented. A couple of outdoor shots don't really do the trick to make it a movie.

    Still Arliss, old fashioned as he is is always a treat to watch.
  • I love George Arliss films and try to catch them every time TCM shows one. This being said, not all Arliss films are great...and a few, like this one, are really not very good at all.

    The story is about Sylvaus Heythorp (Arliss)...a seemingly rich businessman from a prominent British family. He's just reached 80 and the film appears to be set about 1870 (more or less). Despite his public image, however, he's a four-flusher--a guy who has huge debts and no intention to pay them. His family spends money like it grows on trees and Sylvanus does nothing to dissuade them. And, when one of his creditors tries to get paid, he seems completely indifferent.

    Arliss plays something he never played in other films...a complete jerk! This is a HUGE problem with the film, as the biggest reason to watch him act is his amazing likability, such as in THE WORKING MAN or in THE KING'S VACATION. Instead, he's useless...and the audience feels little connection with the guy. Additionally, the film suffers because the supporting cast is often horrible-- particularly the old man who sells him his ships. And, finally, sometimes Arliss is THE show and hams it up a bit too much--such as the too long and too indulgent dining and drinking scene. All in all, a sadly disappointing film with little to offer.
  • George Arliss was so revered by the Hollywood establishment that he's billed here, as in some other films, as "Mr. George Arliss," above the title. Although the movie is basically a drama, he provides for a lot of comedy with his antics, and he is almost in every scene. He plays a cagey octogenarian, in debt up to his ears, but still able to provide an income for his grandchildren before he dies, so they can be independent. He does this by somewhat unethical means, and he's found out and threatened with exposure. But the plot is almost secondary to the fun you can get by watching his acting. At a shareholder's meeting, he keeps them waiting while he drinks his tea by first pouring it into his saucer and drinking from the saucer. He was proposing a large expenditure and it quietened everybody down. The eating scene at the end lasts about 15 minutes and is very funny, as his servant continually tries to stop him from the excesses he has in mind. But he is resolute and he is the master, so he doesn't stop. I was a bit disappointed at the unexpected ending, but in retrospect, it was the only way to end the movie. The supporting cast includes Betty Lawford as his granddaughter (a standout), Doris Lloyd as his secret daughter-in-law, Ethel Griffies as his spinster bossy daughter and Murray Kinnell as the villain, all in fine form.
  • OLD English and especially the tour de force performance of George Arliss in his final original role for the Broadway stage, is here meticulously preserved, if in slightly truncated form, for a grateful nation (the film was a major hit in its day, confirming a distinguished film career for the aging Arliss) by Warner Brothers' Vitaphone film department as the movies started to talk in earnest.

    Of course Arliss' transition from stage to film can be accused by 21st Century "know-it-alls" as being too much a filmed stage play as Arliss, playing a shipping magnate nearing the end of his life cuts questionable deals to make sure the family of an illegitimate son from earlier in his life is left well provided for (and some folk claim this story is somehow "dated"?!?). That very faithfulness to the origins in Galsworthy's stage play was one of the film's major virtues when made, and whatever performance technique Arliss displays that children today may find "arch," in 1930 was a virtual masterclass in carefully crafted subtlety compared to the acting style which dominated the time on stage and screen - hence Arliss' major, well earned - and well remembered even today among the genuinely knowledgeable - film stardom from 1921 to 1937 when he deigned to commute in from his London home.

    While Arliss' 25 films are today not particularly well distributed because of the changing tastes of the times, there are three PAGES of them listed on DVD on Amazon at this writing, every one of them worth considering! Galsworthy's "The Forsythe Saga" would be a massive hit twice for the BBC and PBS television many years later trading on the same cultural values - but it was free on TV and the remake was in color, yet it never achieved the classic status that OLD English on stage and film held for over a decade in the 20's and 30's.

    This beautiful document in a must-see for any serious student of the modern stage and early film; while probably not for the pseudo-film fan or latter day dilettante who expects car chases, sex and explosions as their "entertainment," it is required viewing for those who thus far only know Mr. Arliss for his justly famous (and Oscar winning) interpretation of DISRAELI the year before, repeating one of his most famous stage roles for the SECOND time on screen!
  • I'm sure George Arliss would approve of my heading, because that's what he was - a distinguished star of the London stage before coming to Hollywood. In fact, in this picture he is listed as MR. George Arliss. I think only Paul Muni was referred to as MR for a time.

    There is no question who the star of the picture is. The camera favors him with countless close-ups and fixes upon his every movement, and in return he uses every acting trick he can summon and he is delightful. He tends toward ham every so often and it's a treat to watch. Here he is an old bank president 'on his last legs', as several creditors try to pry him from his job. The movie's title is his nickname among his colleagues.

    The role is well within his capability and plays like a filmed stage play as there is not much camera movement, due probably to primitive 30's camera technique combining with sound. There are also no exterior shots and takes place strictly on a soundstage. I recommend it because it is fascinating to watch a master thespian at work, although it may not be as good as some. Disraeli (1929) and Cardinal Richelieu (1935) are better.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Director: GEORGE ARLISS. Screenplay: John Galsworthy, with minor contributions by Walter T. Howell and Maude Anthony. Based on the story, "Old Heythorp", and the 1924 stage play adapted from that story, "Old English", both by John Galsworthy. Assistant director: Alfred E. Green. Photography: James Van Trees. Film splicer: Owen Marks. Unbecoming costumes designed by Earl Luick. Erno Rapee is credited as music director, although there is music only over the front and end credits. Louis Silvers conducted the studio orchestra for two minutes. Sound recording engineer: Clare A. Riggs. Vitaphone Sound System. Producer: Mr George Arliss.

    A production of the George Arliss unit at Warner Brothers' studios, Hollywood, California. Copyright 13 September 1930 by Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc. New York opening: 21 August 1930. U.S. release: 27 September 1930. 11 reels. 7,926 feet. 88 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: A disgustingly greedy and unprincipled old swindler eats and drinks himself to death rather than face exposure.

    NOTES: Although the movie is credited to Alfred E. Green, the movie was actually directed by George Arliss, as anyone who was present on the set will tell you. Green's capacity was an advisory one. Arliss directed all the actors and blocked out their movements. The only player that Arliss allowed any sort of leeway to present his or her own interpretation was his friend, Murray Kinnell. Significantly, Kinnell is the only major player in the movie whose performance cannot be faulted.

    COMMENT: Rather than give so distinguished an actor as George Arliss a bad review, Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times decided not to review the movie at all. I'm tempted to follow the same path, for Arliss is one of my favorite people. It pains me to say that this is an absolutely dreadful movie. In fact, it's not a movie at all, but a photographed stage play. Even that would not be so bad, if its pace were only half as slow and its foregone conclusion trimmed to the bone. Arliss is the movie's worst enemy. Wearing a ridiculous wig that at times is perched at such a perilous angle it seems about to fall off, he hogs the camera unmercifully from go to whoa. He subordinates everyone and everything – except his friend, Murray Kinnell, who alone is allowed to stand up to him. On the other hand, despite the importance of his role, Ivan Simpson is given no close-ups at all and is forced to play his big crucial scene in a single take's awkwardly composed two-shot. The lighting favors Arliss of course – and that's just the problem with this film. For Arliss does nothing but drink and pontificate, drink and connive, drink and slurp, eat, eat, eat, and drink, drink, drink. If you want to watch George Arliss slurping and guzzling, Old English is for you. If not, it's one to avoid!
  • There are two conflicting themes, or sets of values at work in Arliss' role. On the one hand he's supposed to be an elderly successful businessman (who is unaccountably poor) while also being a lovable scoundrel. On the other, he insists to anyone who'll listen that the most important thing in life - in fact the only point of having money - is being able to maintain one's independence. Yet he quite happily defrauds his shareholders by means of a clandestine deal through which he's able to secure considerable financial advantages for his 'family'. In other words, his vaunted independence is secured by a crime; it's counterfeit independence. Although the act in question takes place at the end of his life you get the impression that it would never have troubled him ethically at any time. The acting is very stage bound, even Arliss' performance. The repeated emphasis on his advanced age might have gone over well in the theatre with some stage 'business'; on the screen with no variation it's dull. Within a couple of years his film acting would become so much more flexible. The plot itself is very thin.
  • drjgardner19 December 2016
    "Old English" is a 1930 Warner Bros. film adapted from a stage play. Both the play and the film star George Arliss (1868-1946) who was a major star on the stage and in the silent and the early talkie period, with films like "Disraeli" (1921 and 1929) and "Voltaire" (1933). He won the Academy Award for "Disraeli" (1929) and was nominated again for "The Green Goddess" (1930).

    Arliss plays an 80 year old English ship builder, though he was only 60 when the film was done. The following year he was cast as young Alexander Hamilton playing a man in his 30s. In both cases he seemed more his age than the role he was playing.

    Arliss was so well regarded by Warner Bros. his name is even larger than the title of the film and he is referred to as "Mr. George Arliss".

    Arliss was very much a silent film actor, and while he did do well in some talkies (e.g., 1929s "Disraeli"), his silent film gestures are omnipresent. In a filmed stage play, which is essentially what this is, the silent film acting and the static camera work are a bit too much. Arliss is one of the few silent film stars who made a smooth transition to talkies, and his career continued for many years.

    I'm a big fan of Arliss but this film is not one of his better works.

    In 1930 the top grossing films were "All Quiet on the Western Front", Eddie Cantor's "Whoopee", "Hell's Angels", "Animal Crackers", and Harold Lloyd's "Feet First". "All Quiet" was the big Oscar winner (Picture, Director). Other notable films released that year include "The Divorce" (Norma Shearer won the Oscar), Garbo's "Anna Christie", Wallace Beery's "Big House" and "Min and Bill", John Wayne's massive failure "The Big Trail", and Howard Hawks' "Dawn Patrol",