For Reel

Bright Lights (1930)
June 27, 2015, 11:50 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Michael Curtiz
2.5 Stars
Bright LightsBright Lights is a standard pre-Code backstage musical, elevated on occasion by its bizarre production numbers and the reliably lively performance from Dorothy Mackaill. She plays Louanne, a successful actress who is set to marry a rich bachelor instead of the man that she truly loves (Frank Fay). In a series of flashbacks, it is revealed that her socialite past was an embellishment, and instead she made her living as a showgirl at a series of shady venues. From there, the plot gets so convoluted that a murder is lightly taken as an afterthought. The original technicolor print of the picture was lost, and one gets the sense that the film was made very much as a showcase for the technology. Mackaill’s blush stands out as particularly dark, and Fay’s face is caked in makeup–small aesthetic touches that would have looked very different in the color prints. Regardless, there are a handful of enjoyable production numbers, including one in which Mackaill performs in drag as a “man about town”, and another in which she sings, “I’m crazy for cannibal love!” in full jungle attire. Fay, a star of vaudeville and the man who brought Barbara Stanwyck to Hollywood, doesn’t translate particularly well to film. His rendition of “Nobody Cares If I’m Blue” rids the song of all of its aching. It could have been a moment that earned empathy for his character, but instead his instinct is to play it ironically.

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