For Reel

Chatterbox (1936)
December 15, 2013, 3:55 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: George Nicholls Jr.
2.5 Stars
ChatterboxAfter RKO’s adaptation of the beloved Canadian novel Anne of Green Gables found enormous success in 1934, leading actress Dawn O’Day changed her name to Anne Shirley and with it she would carry on the wholesome, endlessly talkative persona that made her famous. Chatterbox feels much the same as the picture which made her a star–Shirley, naive and innocent, is forced to confront the things in life that challenge her good cheer. Here she plays a orphan girl who aspires to become an actress like her mother. When she discovers that the play in which her mother starred in is being performed by a New York stage company, she makes it her goal to take the part. Unbeknownst to her, the play is a comedy, which the theatre veterans (including Erik Rhodes as a smug producer) keep a secret until opening night. Shirley’s characterization can be grating–she seems to veer more towards idiot than naive–but her over-earnest line readings maintain a slight charm throughout. Where she particularly excels is the close-up, with her biggest asset being the vulnerability that she can so successfully communicate through her welling eyes and a small quiver in her voice. Despite Shirley’s talents, however, the picture is largely a bore–so solemn that the laughs never quite come through, so guileless that it seems ingenuous. The biggest pleasures, other than Shirley, include supporting turns from Margaret Hamilton and a ninth-billed Lucille Ball as a bratty member of the theatre group.

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