For Reel

The Mind Reader (1933)
September 26, 2014, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Roy Del Ruth
4 Stars
The Mind ReaderIt seems like every other shot is at a canted angle in The Mind Reader and the reasoning for it seems to be the most literal one–the man is crooked, so the film is crooked! Warren William plays The Great Chandra, a former carnival barker who learns what great money there is to be made in the business of crystal ball reading. This is William at his cynical best, paired nicely with the similarly sardonic character actor Allen Jenkins. Only when Chandra falls in love with a naive girl who believes his powers to be true (Constance Cummings) does he start to go straight, but audiences won’t be fooled into thinking that he’ll be stuck on the honest path for long. The dialogue–much of it involving a complete derision of the “common” people–is consistently witty, all culminating in one of the funniest final lines in a movie from the pre-Code era. William’s cool, acerbic deliveries are pleasing, but perhaps his best scene is when, in a drunken fury, he breaks down on stage and bluntly tells the audience what fools they are for believing him. It’s the first scene in which his hatred for the public seems married to his own self-loathing, and for a largely unpleasant protagonist the scene packs a surprising emotional wallop.