User Reviews (15)

Add a Review

  • Arsene Lupin (1932)

    *** (out of 4)

    When John Barrymore got out of his contract with Warner, MGM wasted no time in signing him and even lesser time in putting him in a film with his brother Lionel. This was the first of five films they'd make together and their easy to spot rivalry really makes this film the charming gem that it is. An elderly detective (Lionel) is convinced that the Duke of Charmerace (John) is the infamous jewel thief known as Arsene Lupin. The detective will stop at nothing to prove his thoughts and that includes bringing in a sexy spy (Karen Morley). The story itself isn't anything ground breaking or Oscar-worthy but it is good enough to build up two nice characters and then stand back and let the actors do all the work. Fans of the brothers will certainly get a kick out of seeing the two men working together as both deliver very strong performances and they really make this film worth seeking out. What works best is the comic timing that the two men bring to the table as well as their rivalry. Each scene that the two men are in you can tell that they are trying to out act the other and this adds a charm that no two other actors could have captured. Just take a look at the sequence at the start when Lionel arrests John thinking that he's lying about being the Duke. Just watch this scene and then compare it to a later scene where John is holding Lionel captive until he can prove that he's really a cop. Morley also fits into the threesome quite well as she has an undeniable sexual tension with John and some fun comic touches with Lionel. The scene where she introduces herself to the Duke while naked in his bed is a pre-code gem. Some could argue that a stronger "story" would have helped matters and it might have but the cast doesn't even bother to speak with French accents so there's no doubt that the studio was just trying to get the two men in the same film. The ending packs a terrific punch as everything gets closed up very tightly and in a way that everyone, including the viewer, wins.
  • A cranky police detective suspects a French duke of being the infamous thief ARSÈNE LUPIN.

    John & Lionel Barrymore costarred together for the first time in a motion picture in this intriguing crime drama. Alike and yet so different, they are the perfect counterpoint to each other. John plays his role with suave sophistication (when not in disguise) and Lionel is earthy & common in his portrayal, each obviously having a wonderful time trying to out act the other. Helped by a generous script, the outcome is pretty much a draw, with the viewer the clear winner.

    Although upstaged by the two male stars, Karen Morley is intriguing as the mystery woman John finds naked in his bed. Tully Marshall gives a colorful performance as a silly nobleman with much to lose to the master criminal. Henry Armetta & George Davis are very enjoyable as two seriously inept security guards. John Miljan provides a sturdy presence in his small role as the police prefect.

    Movie mavens will recognize an uncredited Mischa Auer as a guide in the Louvre during the climactic scene dealing with an attempted heist of the Mona Lisa.
  • Suave gentleman thief Arsene Lupin (John Barrymore) clashes with Detective Guerchard (Lionel Barrymore) as he tries to steal the Mona Lisa. Any movie with the two Barrymore brothers together is automatically worth checking out. Karen Morley is also good in her sexy role. Her acting style dates her but she's good at what she does. A charming, fun movie with lots of class. This is old-fashioned but in the best way. You see Hollywood try to revive this type of film every few years but with little success. A must-see for fans of the Barrymores.

    I wonder if Arsene Lupin was the inspiration for the infamous Savoir-Faire from the Klondike Kat cartoon. For those who don't know, Savoir-Faire was a French-Canadian mouse who also happened to be a master thief. Probably not but I love imagining Lionel Barrymore saying "Savoir-Faire is everywhere."
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Believe it or not, the Mona Lisa actually got stolen once, and was missing for nearly two years. In 1911, Leonardo da Vinci's 'La Gioconda' (better known as the Mona Lisa) was taken from the Louvre by a petty thief (and former Louvre employee) who allegedly sought to return the world's most famous piece of art to its native Italy. His actions after the theft make it seem more likely that he intended to sell the painting for his personal profit. (Of course, he had no hope of finding a buyer.) The Mona Lisa was quietly returned to the Louvre on the very last day of 1913, remaining there ever since except for occasional loan-outs. When "Arsène Lupin" was released in 1932 (twenty years after the theft), most moviegoers would have recalled that 1911 crime, and their knowledge would have lent some plausibility to this movie. "Arsène Lupin" is quite enjoyable, with MGM's usual high production standards and Jack Conway's usual briskly efficient direction. This movie does not lack for pleasure; what it lacks is plausibility.

    John Barrymore is the master criminal of the title: he specialises in perpetrating 'impossible' crimes, which he makes even more difficult by announcing them in advance ... but of course he always commits the crime and fools the gendarmes. Tully Marshall has a good scene as one of Barrymore's victims. Lupin has a penchant for elaborate disguises, which enables Barrymore (a U.S. 'Grade A' ham) to indulge his own penchant for tomfoolery. John's older brother Lionel Barrymore is Guerchard, the Javert-like Surete detective sworn to catch Lupin.

    Karen Morley was an extremely beautiful actress whose private life was filled with populist political activities; on screen, she was most impressive in working-class roles that fitted her own political beliefs (such as her fine performance in 'Our Daily Bread'). In "Arséne Lupin", Morley's naturally dark hair is bleached a horrid blonde tone, and she's all tarted up in posh outfits that make her look uncomfortable rather than sexy.

    SPOILERS COMING. Eventually, Lupin decides to steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. He slits the painting from its frame, rolls up the canvas, and then smuggles it out in a flower basket. We see John Barrymore casually brandishing a tightly-rolled piece of cloth which is allegedly the greatest work of art in all human history. I had to laugh at the filmmakers' error. In real life (but not in this movie), da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa on a plank of poplar wood, so a thief would have difficulty rolling it up!

    Eventually, Guerchard captures Lupin and hauls him off to Le Calaboose. The scene between John and Lionel Barrymore in the police car is sheer delight, as their genuine affection for each other spills out into their characters' dialogue. I would have found this scene implausible with any two other actors. As it is, I can't imagine anyone but the Barrymore brothers playing these roles. Well, maybe Dennis and Randy Quaid, but just barely.

    Don't look for a good plot line here, but "Arsène Lupin" is a delightful example of old-style movie-making. I'll rate this movie 8 points out of 10.
  • JOHN BARRYMORE actually underplays the role of ARSENE LUPIN in this early talkie that features his brother LIONEL BARRYMORE as a crusty detective seeking to solve a series of jewel robberies. John Barrymore is the elegant man suspected of being the famed jewel thief and he plays it with a surprising amount of charm and skill, rather than the overacting he often displayed in later films.

    KAREN MORLEY is the attractive blonde who is supposed to be helping Lionel get the goods on the thief--but, unfortunately, she's no help at all when she falls hopelessly in love with the charming scoundrel.

    So much about the film, where much of the action takes place on a country estate with wealthy people in attendance, reminds me of the David Niven/Olivia de Havilland film about the Scotland Yard thief RAFFLES. Barrymore plays the role with the same effortless charm that Niven adapted for his Raffles, the man who kept authorities baffled with a string of jewel robberies.

    TCM is showing a good print of the film and while some of the dialog leaves a lot to be desired, it's a good example of an early sound film that still holds up today. Interior sets of the country estate are expensively mounted and it's obvious this was designed as a major film, not a programmer, despite the slight story.

    Lionel hams it up considerably throughout, but John is more effective in his underplayed role.
  • A remake of the 1916 silent film, based on the 1909 novel by Maurice Leblanc. The detective series would be made into numerous plays, films and TV series in the UK, the US, and France over the years. This 1932 version starred the smashing Barrymore brothers John (as the Duke) and Lionel (as Detective Guerchard). They would also star together in Grand Hotel, Dinner at Eight, and several others over the next couple years. Sonia (Karen Morley) shows up in the Duke's bed during a party in this pre-Hayes code film; first the lights go out in the bedroom, then they go out in the main ballroom, then the search is on for the crook and the missing jewelry, as well as other missing valuables... You can tell talkies hadn't been around too long, as they still use caption cards several times. Also watch for a new kind of safe that doesn't need a combination. Well-thought- out plot, no big holes, but no big surprises here either. Not bad for an early talkie film. Clever ending.
  • As a kid, I used to watch the Japanese anime series updating the exploits of the titular jewel thief (where he was depicted as an over- sexed buffoon, flanked by a shapely girl and two taciturn but deadly accomplices!) – though I have yet to check out the renowned Hayao Miyazaki's 1979 feature-length THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO inspired from it, which I acquired some time ago. I also own and am already familiar with two well-regarded French efforts (retaining the turn-of-the-century setting), namely THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN (1957; stylishly helmed by Jacques Becker) and SIGNED, ARSENE LUPIN (1959); for the record, others which intrigue me are the 1962 ARSENE LUPIN VS. ARSENE LUPIN and the 1971 TV series, both also emanating from the character's 'native' country.

    However, the film under review – which I had first acquired via a TV-to- VHS-to-DVD conversion of poor quality, but which I eventually upgraded (albeit still culled from a TCM screening) – remains perhaps the most popular rendition of this debonair figure; by the way, I also have in my collection its direct but-as-yet unwatched 1938 sequel ARSENE LUPIN RETURNS. Incidentally, such gentlemen crooks were a regular feature of pulp fiction (notably the similarly much-filmed "Raffles": I own versions of it dating from 1917 – starring, as here, John Barrymore – 1925, 1930 – alas, only a TV-to-VHS copy – and 1939!) until they made way for more ruthless and ambitious criminal masterminds such as Fantomas and Dr. Mabuse.

    Anyway, this classy production – best-known for first teaming John with his elder brother Lionel (they would appear together 5 times in 2 years, on one of which they were even joined by sister Ethel!) – is most enjoyable, with a plot which has since become a cliché: the protagonist's duality (hiding under an air of respectability and, at one point, the guise of an aged flower-seller to pull off a daring 'job' at the Louvre); the analogous deception by the woman in his life (or, more precisely, the one he finds in his bed – a delightfully racy scene for an MGM picture but, then, this was a "Pre-Code" release – during a reception!); Lupin's tenacious, but ultimately sympathetic, antagonist (whose physical attributes – including a prominent limp – actually fit the description of the 'villain' as given by an eye-witness!); the ultra-modern gadgets (a safe without the proverbial combination but 'armed' with an electrical charge), etc.

    John Barrymore's famed good looks ("The Great Profile" was 50 at the time) and up-till-then infrequently-tapped comic timing (though he would increasingly come to rely upon it for the rest of his career!) make him, respectively, ideal casting and a pleasure to watch; for what it is worth, I have as many as 23 titles of his still to go through…even if only 4 fall into my current exercise of movie viewing based on all-time best polls and the higher ratings bestowed by Leslie Halliwell and Leonard Maltin!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    During the filming of Rasputin and the Emperor, Lionel Barrymore kept calling the director from a phone booth, asking him to tell John Barrymore not to put his hand on Lionel's wrist as it stole focus. I guess you had to watch that John like a hawk.

    John is the Duke of Charmerace aka Arsene Lupin, and Lionel is the hapless Guerchard who is under great pressure to capture him, as he's stealing right and left. But the Duke keeps beating him every time.

    Arsene Lupin has a bigger goal than a few jewels - the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. What the script writers didn't realize is that you can't roll up the Mona Lisa, she was painted on wood.

    Karen Morley is on hand as someone Guerchard sends in to help capture Lupin.

    The entire film is very sophisticated with fun moments. John and Lionel are great and obviously having a good time.
  • A chance to see John and Lionel Barrymore in the same film is never to be passed up. MGM dragged up Arsene Lupin from the Edwardian era. The title character is a French version of Raffles, the titled gent who likes to step out every so often as an amateur thief.

    Like Ronald Colman and David Niven in Raffles, Barrymore is as debonair and charming as they playing the titled thief. His Clark Kent persona is the Duke of Charace, but when he's working he's Arsene Lupin. He even sends notes to the police signed Arsene Lupin.

    The man assigned to catching the notorious Arsene Lupin is Inspector Lionel Barrymore who has a good reputation. But Lupin proves to be a bedeviller. Never mind say Lionel's superiors, your job is on the line if you don't get him within a week. They make no bones about it, he robs the rich and the rich pay our taxes.

    The party of skinflint old nobleman Tully Marshall is the target and it's a game of cat and mouse between the Barrymore brothers.. Lionel brings in reinforcements with the beautiful Karen Morley, but John is up to just about anything Lionel can muster.

    Arsene Lupin is old fashioned, but the brothers are incredible to watch even after over 80 years. It's worth a look.
  • I have read a number of the Arsene Lupin books - not all by any means - in French, since I spend a lot of time in France. Maybe it's a different feel in English translation, but I doubt it. No one can take the plots seriously, or the characters for that matter. The plotlines are over the top: the "four great mysteries;" a fountain of youth, etc. The characters are even more far-fetched. In short, if you try to take the stuff seriously you'll end up throwing the book across the room. If a movie version tried to do it seriously it would end up flat on its face. That's the beauty of this "Arsene Lupin." It hits the right spirit: just have a good time; let the Barrymore brothers loose, let them ham it up, sit back and enjoy.

    Karen Morley did a filmed interview in 1992. You can find it on-line. Toward the end, the interviewer asked which of her films she liked doing the most. She was in some good ones, before her independent spirit got in her way and she broke her MGM contract: "Scarface:' "Mata Hari:' "Dinner at Eight;" "Black Fury;" "Our Daily Bread;" "Gabriel Over the White House;" later "Pride and Prejudice." I expected her to say "Scarface." She said "Arsene Lupin" because it was fun. She and Jack Barrymore, she said, had fun. You can see it on screen. They're all having fun. (Tully Marshall looks like he wants to laugh half the time.) The sleep-walking scene is hilarious. And the scene where she's naked in Barrymore's bed. A gem. Karen Morley had an unusual style, understated. She makes you want to get inside her head, since she won't make her emotions obvious on the surface. It is sometimes disconcerting. But it makes you watch her closely. She also said, perhaps jokingly, in the interview, "I wasn't very good, I think, (in that movie) but it was fun." I thought she was very good, and smart. You can't out-act John Barrymore when he wants to ham it up. So smile (she had a wonderful smile) and let him do his thing. Both Barrymores do their thing. They catch the spirit of Maurice LeBlanc's outrageous characters marvelously. My recommendation: have a beer or two, or a glass of Bordeaux, then settle in to watch this film. You'll have a perfect evening's entertainment.
  • John Barrymore plays a gentleman who is also the thief, Arsene Lupin. While no one knows for sure this is the case, the inspector (Lionel Barrymore) is sure of it but cannot prove it. So, Lionel spends much of the movie following John--hoping to catch this brilliant and slippery thief.

    Although I liked the film, I really think I had higher expectations for it and thought it might be better than just a very good time-passer. That's because it paired John AND Lionel Barrymore in the film and since these brothers were such dynamic actors, I think I expected sparks and magic but instead only caught glimpses of it here and there. Now this is not to say this is a bad film--it certainly isn't. It just didn't rise to the level of being unforgettable or a film I strongly recommend you see. Thanks an adequate script, the film is pretty good but I was surprised to hear no French accents at all in the film even though it was supposedly about French people! Also, there just wasn't much life in the film until it was nearly complete. The ending was indeed excellent and entertaining--so good that it elevated the film from a 6 to a 7. It's nice to see it ended on a high note.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Thanks to slick pacing and strong performances, this starts off nicely and never lets up. Both Barrymores (John as the Duke and Lionel as the Police Prefect) might be the infamous crook Lupin. Meanwhile, the real Lupin in sending the Prefect Guerchard letters. Then we're whisked to a swanky party scene at Gohrney-Martin's (Tully Marshall's) estate, complete with Sonia's (Karen Morley's) risque interlude with the Duke. Incredibly, the Duke convinces two bumblers that It would be good if the Prefect were indeed Lupin because then the Prefect would be on hand to arrest him. Makes logical sense in an absurd way. The double surprise of the booby-trapped safe is a nice touch too. That's only the beginning of a deluge of coincidences, deceptions, doublings, and other bits of mayhem.

    Sonia's role is interesting; she's really working for the police, but she's also playing both sides for her own amusement. She's definitely having fun in the sleep-walking scene; naturally for this movie, the scene is duplicated with the roles reversed. When the Duke remarks "everything about you is a little bit dangerous, Sonia" he aptly sums up her character. The masquerading theme expands when Lupin's men assume police guise--who are the real policemen anyway? Who is Lupin?

    It seems that the Prefect has the Duke and Sonia over a barrel: if she tells the truth, she goes back to prison, if she lies to protect herself, she incriminates the Duke. Of course, though, that dilemma evaporates as Lupin's timely message seemingly exonerates both of them. The flower-seller characters (there has to be two of them...) are great; it's obvious that there's more deception going on here. The ending is a culmination of all this commotion. First, the Duke trades the Mona Lisa for his 'men', then attempts to trade his freedom for the Prefect's allegedly-kidnapped daughter.

    The actual denouement is elegant as well as dramatic. Camaraderie, amongst peers and noble antagonists, trumps all. That's the name of the game In this milieu. Although there's a comic motif throughout, there's no lack of tension, and a well-developed mystery. The romantic subplot really is the key to the main plot, as the happy couple stoke-up the chemistry, not least because they also have the best one-liners and the funniest scenes.

    I wasn't prepared for such a good movie; I expected something like the nattering ninny-fests that typified '30s mysteries. But Arsene Lupin couldn't be better. Supremely recommended.
  • Arsene Lupin may be one of the most infamous jewel thieves on film, but it is difficult to not be charmed or entertained by him at the same time. He does face the danger of being annoying when not executed well, but when done well he is debonair, amusing and a rascally character that is pretty irresistible. Another interest point was seeing the two Barrymore brothers John and Lionel together and there are some very interesting and well done early talkies.

    Including 1932's 'Arsene Lupin'. If anybody loves or at least appreciates John and Lionel Barrymore individually they should find much to enjoy, and even more so seeing them together. If anybody loves the character of Lupin, they should find a lot to like about 'Arsene Lupin' (am not saying that for definite and it is not going to be the case for all perhaps). It serves as a very introduction to him if one has little prior knowledge of Lupin and is intrigued by it for appreciating early talkies and the Barrymore brothers. As far as early talkies go, 'Arsene Lupin' is not one of the best but it is not one of the worst either (nowhere near close, personally put it somewhere around high middle).

    What really makes 'Arsene Lupin' so worth watching is the Barrymore brothers. Generally have a personal preference for Lionel ever since seeing his unforgettable Potter from 'It's a Wonderful Life' for the first time, and he is clearly having enormous fun here so it was easy to enjoy him. To me though John as Lupin comes off even better, suave, amusing and charming all at once and he is also a lot less theatrical here than he was prone to around this period. Their chemistry is dynamite. Karen Morley more than holds her own and is endearing, love her alluring chemistry with John and she even gets some risque material. Tully Marshall stands out too with great comic timing without being too buffoonish. The whole cast is good.

    Likewise with the adroit direction from dependable Jack Conway, have not liked every film of his but he did do some very good ones and 'Arsene Lupin' is one of them. He never seemed ill at ease with the material or at odds with it. The film looks attractive and full of class, especially the photography, and the score has a sense of adventure and tension orchestrated beautifully. There is some nice witty dialogue throughout, it never gets vulgar and the sophistication shines. The story is always involving and has an authentic atmosphere, the ending is thrilling.

    Really not much here to criticise, though there are times where the relative infancy of early talkies is betrayed in some staid pacing every now and again, bogged down by not always necessary caption cards, and padding.

    Overall, very entertaining. 8/10
  • Among the Barrymores, Lionel (1878-1954) was the oldest and my favorite, followed by Ethel (1879-1959) and then John (1882-1942). The 3 made only 1 film together (Rasputin) but John and Lionel made several, including Grand Hotel (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), and Night Flight (1933).

    Arsene Lupin was John's first film with Lionel and his first film for MGM. He has lost his chiseled good looks, put on a little weight, and the dissipation is only slightly in view, and in the next few years it would be more noticeable. Lionel's problems with arthritis are also slightly in view here, and also would worsen with time. Eventually he would perform in a wheelchair.

    The film itself is pretty poor, with a wandering plot and a lot of wasted time. Karen Morley gives an enchanting performance as the love interest.

    What I like best about this film is the relationship of John and Lionel. It shows them playing off one another and some true filial affection.
  • gbill-7487711 December 2020
    Between the cat and mouse game between a thief and a detective (John and Lionel Barrymore) and a flirtation the thief has with a woman working undercover with the police (Karen Morley), there's enough here to make this pre-Code film worth seeing. Highlights were the banter between J. Barrymore and Morley when he finds her undressed and in his bed at a party, and later him faking his identify a couple of times, once over the phone and another time dressing up as an old street peddler. I also thought the safe with the electrified handle was pretty funny. This was the first time the Barrymore brothers appeared in a film together, and aside from their characters' games of one-upmanship, the actors seemed to put a little extra into their performances. The story isn't incredibly clever but it's entertaining enough for 84 minutes.