4 January 2005 | Handlinghandel
In Shockingly Bad Taste But Fascinating
This appears to have been the last movie of the great John Barrymore. (The filmography listed here must be wrong in following it with a movie in 1966. I've seen that movie and it is an old one.) As such, it has historical importance.
John Barrymore will always be remembered as one of the great men of American theater as well as a fine movie actor. He looks puffy and tired here, but boy! Does he give it his best shot.
The on screen credits have him as a supporting player, with Kay Keyser -- a tiny fleck on the radar screen of movie history -- before the title. However, I'd guess that Barrymore has at least as many lines as Keyser.
As to the quality of the lines: That is another story. In the movie, the always funny Patsy Kelly plays his agent. In real life, it's hard to imagine that any agent would have allowed him to play in such a startlingly vulgar movie. Maybe bills just needed to be paid.
This movie is so vulgar, it is entertaining, though our hearts break for Barrymore being paraded around in such sorry physical shape (and ending the movie in some sort of bizarre drag, hardly flattering to his corpulent figure. It is supposed to be Shakespearean garb but I've never seen a play by the immortal Bard that had its lead got up like that.) (Of course, I have never seen one with a male Portia, either, though Keyser is shown practicing her lines from "The Merchant Of Venice.") Lupe Velez is also served very badly here. She has a small role and is, as she generally was, a caricature. She is overly made up and is made to seem thoroughly unappealing in character as well.
May Robson is always good. I have never seen a bad performance from her. Here she is in the small role of Keyser's mother and does fine with what she has. It is scarcely one of the highlights of her career, though.
Ish Kabibble is a very odd presence. He seems to have the haircut on which the Beatles (whom I love; please understand) based theirs. He is harmless, as is Keyser, as is Ginny Simms. I don't care for that style of music, but obviously many did.
Having John Barrynore laugh at, or even be on the same sound stage with, Ish's corny jokes is really sad, though. The whole thing is sad. But it isn't dull.
If Barrymore were alive today, one has the feeling from his presence here, he might be doing guest bits on reality TV shows -- letting it all hang out but making enough to pay the bills and to keep his name in the public eye.