11 May 2003 | gleywong
The prompter saves the day
Kudos for this under-rated costume farce. It was included in Olivia de Havilland's TCM special, but she has a relatively small though choice role in it. Brian Aherne is surprisingly good as Garrick, the leading English actor of his day, cutting a tall, strikingly handsome figure in rococco-wear and powdered wig, delivering the staged lines with considerable panache. He is certainly every bit a match for Errol Flynn and the movies he shared with de Havilland, but it's a mystery why Aherne was only cast in this one. Olivia was quite young and very radiant, playing a mistaken-identity sweetheart-contessa type that she will repeat many times, possibly too often, in her career(eg, The Ambassador's Daughter, Princess O-Rourke). The take-off on the Comedie Francaise as bungling ham actors is priceless in itself. Certainly the director, screen writer and anyone else who took part in the production should be noted, for the fast, slightly frenetic pacing of the lines and timing of the repartee are key aspects of the success and they weren't necessarily transferrable to other movies by the same director and writer.
Special notice should be given to Etienne Giradot, who plays the prompter with a conscience who gets batted about for speaking the truth and showing up his jingoist "betters" with his honesty. His intermittent appearances, starting at the beginning and then at the end, in his prompter's box, are almost worth the price of admission. Those who have seen "The Kennel Murder Case" with William Powell, will remember Giradot as the doctor/undertaker who never gets to finish a meal. With an actor of such a unique personality, yet so perfectly cast in both supporting roles, one wonders whether if he was simply playing himself, or whether the parts were tailored for him. Four stars **** out of four.