A carnival magician deserts his wife when he finds out she's pregnant. She then marries the carnival's barker, but finds herself attracted to a young engineer.A carnival magician deserts his wife when he finds out she's pregnant. She then marries the carnival's barker, but finds herself attracted to a young engineer.A carnival magician deserts his wife when he finds out she's pregnant. She then marries the carnival's barker, but finds herself attracted to a young engineer.
'Lilly Turner' was a bit of a disappointment though. The cast are served well, especially Chatterton in a tailor made role for her, but this really isn't one of Wellman's best films (a lesser one in my view actually) and he did much better directing in his career. 'Lilly Turner' is certainly not a bad film, it does have a good deal to like. Considering its potential, it just could have been great and was only in my view a little above average. Wellman was much better though when he addressed heavy and ahead of the time subjects and did so in a way that pulled no punches, there is not quite enough of that here.
Certainly, the good things are quite a lot. Chatterton is a delight, playing with a lot of never overdone gusto while being affecting in the right places. Brent does very well in his role, which is not as meaty but he is very appealing and has a very believable chemistry with Chatterton. The supporting cast standout is ever dependable Frank McHugh in a sympathetic and quite moving performance rather than the comic relief, closely followed by Guy Kibbee in the type of role he most excelled at. Robert Barat is frightening.
It looks great visually, the photography as ever for a Wellman film is a long way from static or sinplistic and it is also very atmospheric. The script is disarming and quite thoughtful and the film does intrigue and move enough and starts off well.
Was very mixed on Wellman's direction. It's competent and he never framed or staged the action in a claustrophobic or static way, showing that photography was starting to come on a long way since when the transition from silent to sound was starting to be made. At the same time, it's been more distinguished and bolder in most of his other films as it did feel slightly bland.
Most problematic is the story and pacing. 'Lilly Turner' is far too short at only just over an hour and tries to cram in too content in one film. The amount of content that would have fared much better filmed as two films and not just one and of a longer length. As a result, it as an overall whole felt very rushed and over-stuffed and too many of the plot points are not explored enough. Making the drama feel bland at times, and it gets very soapy and contrived to credibility-straining point.
On the whole, some very good things but very flawed in the story department. To be seen namely if a fan of Chatterton or Wellman. 6/10
- Apr 30, 2020