Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


NO GREATER GLORY (1934). Director: Frank Borzage.

In Germany a group of young boys have laid claim to a vacant lot and call themselves the Paul Street Boys. A group of older boys, bullies, are after the lot for themselves, and the younger lads are determined to defend it at any cost. The smallest boy, Nemecsek (George Breakston), is the only one of the Paul Street gang to be a private, and he is also determined to prove that he is as brave and able as any of the others and win his stripes. It all ends in tragedy, however.

I have a good friend who loves this picture, partly because it reminds him of his youth and his experiences in the Army. I really wanted to like this film -- I had already seen the remake called The Boys of Paul Street (1969) -- but it came off to me as nothing so much as a more serious Little Rascals movie! The movie is obvious from the get-go, simplistic and superficial, and actually rather tedious. The business with the vacant lot being a kind of microcosm of war is beaten to death long before the movie's conclusion. The acting of an uncredited Lois Wilson as Nemecsek's mother at the climax isn't nearly strong enough, although I do have to say that the performances of young Breakston, Jimmy Butler, Frankie Darro, and the other youngsters are exemplary. But I could hardly wait until it was over, and to my great surprise I wasn't much moved by the tragic ending either -- perhaps because I would have admired the pathetic Nemecsek more if he had tried to talk the boys into sharing the damn lot instead of eagerly throwing himself into "warfare." Still, it does have a certain poignancy, and a nice musical score by R. H. Bassett.

Verdict: Not exactly Lord of the Flies. **.

No comments: