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

Thursday, March 5, 2009


FIVE STAR FINAL (1931). Director: Mervyn LeRoy.

To drum up circulation a newspaper does a story on a woman who, twenty years before, murdered a man who knocked her up and refused to marry her. She was acquitted, married someone else, and now has a daughter who is engaged to a society fellow -- the daughter has no idea that her mother murdered her biological father. When the story breaks, there are serious repercussions in the family. This is the kind of dull, self-righteous drama that falls flat on its face due to its superficiality and ludicrous contrivances. Edward G. Robinson is lively as the editor who becomes disgusted with it all, and Aline MacMahon scores as his secretary. Boris Karloff offers an interesting performance as a weirdo reporter. H.B. Warner and Frances Starr are very effective as Mr and Mrs. Townsend, the doomed murderess and her husband, but Marian Marsh overacts as their daughter, Jenny. The picture moves fast but isn't very absorbing.

STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM. No one ever makes the point that, even if the murdered man were a stinker, he didn't deserve to die, nor is the point made that Mrs. Townsend murdered her child's father. It's just accepted that homicide was somehow the only solution to her problem! Mrs. Townsend commits suicide, leaving her daughter, and the man who stood by her all those years, to fend for themselves, and Mr. Townsend, after finding his wife's body, also commits suicide, leaving the daughter he raised to face the music by herself! We're supposed to feel sorry for such utterly self-centered people? Talk about lousy parents! At the end of film Jenny blames the newspaper for the suicides, and even -- a chip off the old block -- pulls out a gun and tries to shoot them -- ridiculous! Five Star Final wants to engage the emotions but it certainly never engages the intellect. A script with much more depth might have helped this to amount to something.

Verdict: Even Eddie can't save this stinker. *.

No comments: