For Reel

The Very Idea (1929)
October 17, 2014, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Frank Craven & Richard Rosson
1.5 Stars
The Very IdeaA comedy involving a surrogate mother seems shockingly ahead of its time for the late 1920s, but unfortunately that’s the only thing cutting edge about The Very Idea. Adapted from a Broadway flop, the fourth film produced by the newly established RKO Pictures was a critical and commercial failure at the time of its release. It’s a staid comedy (even for 1929), with much of the film composed of long shots in which the characters have conversations with each other while facing the camera. The scale doesn’t even show basic consistency–in some sequences, the characters occupy the bottom half of the frame and their feet are cut off, and in others much of the floor is exposed. More problematically for modern viewers, the film’s content involves a light-hearted treatment of eugenics, with an insufferable intellectual played by director Frank Craven bringing together two working class people (Hugh Trevor and Sally Blane) as “thoroughbreds” to produce a child for his sister and her new husband (Doris Eaton and the obnoxious Allen Kearns). Coupled with dialogue like, “women are almost as good as men are!”, it’s an exceedingly ugly comedy, and one might expect by its box office failure that audiences of the time shared the sentiment.

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