2 August 2014 | dbdumonteil
Georges Lacombe's name is slowly fading today ,but some people may remember "Le Dernier Des Six" "Martin Roumagnac" " La Lumière D'En Face " (feat B.Bardot).Unfortunately ,his finest effort ,"Le pays Sans Etoiles" , a movie which compares favorably with the best of Jacques Tourneur,remains widely overlooked.
"Boule De Gomme " (=Gumdrop) ,his first talkie ,was a medium-length film ;and his second work,the first being a silent short, "La zone" . It depicts the shooting of a movie ,and its main interest is the documentary side:we have a fly on the wall vision of the work in a studio ,circa 1931.
The producers think that they 're going to have a blockbuster with a horrible melodrama,featuring an impossible brat (a male Shirley Temple)called "Gumdrop".
Two scenes are filmed:
The first one depicts happy times ;Gumdrop is an insufferable kid,but her mom -in the movie- gives him nougat (which he eats during the rehearsals,so he can have more afterward);the weather is fine and the staff in the studio provides (with their voices ) not only bird calls ,but also barks ,mewings ,squeaks,cacklings ,hooting,squeals ,you name it...But they run into difficulties when it comes to making the boy laugh:an impromptu slapstick does the trick.
The second one deals with hard times :the family becomes destitute and dad has just died in the hospital: the problem is to make the Young actor cry .He gets the VIP treatment by his mom (in real life) ,always in awe of her offspring .But one of the grips thinks that there's nothing like a good whacking ,and against all odds,he tames the unbearable child and becomes his friend .
Why those producers do believe they will hit the big time with such a third-rate production and why they do want to keep their star -who wants to leave them after his new friend is fired - remains a mystery.
As I wrote above,an interesting account of the work in a French studio ,at the beginning of the talkies.