2 January 2014 | boblipton
The Despicable Crichton
1930 was the year that MGM went to all-talkie production and this movie demonstrates their lack of ease with the new medium. In addition they saddled themselves with a lot of sequences shot on the water, always a risky proposition -- although the ship was likely at the docks.
Meanwhile this production is afflicted with all the stereotypical problems of early sound productions: a static camera, unnatural-sounding sound with a lot of hiss and badly directed dialogue. Even if you discount these problems, this story of how brutish purser Louis Wollheim seizes control of a yacht after it is wrecked in the storm lacks interesting characters. Each character can be defined in a sentence. The interesting parts of the movie are the sailors trying to deal with the storm as it swamps the yacht; and Kay Johnson checking on the badly injured Conrad Nagel. Those, however, are clearly shot MOS. The rest of the movie makes use of cuts where a moving camera would have been better.
MGM clearly figured this movie to be a greater success than it turned out and its failure pretty much ended the career of Kay Johnson and knocked Conrad Nagel out of the leading man category. Louis Wollheim survived and prospered off his next movie, the great ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. If the MGM brass thought this movie would propel them firmly into the sound era, they were sadly mistaken.