WOMEN AT THE FRONT, WORLD WAR 1
The Mad Parade
A group of canteen workers in a combat zone during World War 1 end up in a dugout where they carry on the emotional squabbles they were having at headquarters before an attack forced their evacuation. The film is an interesting curiosity, boasting an all-female cast. This becomes a gimmick carried to an extreme with men never being seen, even when they are part of the story. It goes so far as to show us but the shadow of a woman’s lover as she leaves his bed.
There are model trucks and miniature vehicles on the battlefield, and with all its talk it feels like a play though not based on one. It is almost always interesting, however, essentially because of the tough, fiery performance by Evelyn Brent. Irene Rich as her calm foil is also good.
A. Edward Sutherland
choreography by Busby Berkeley
The star attraction here is Eddie Cantor, and he and the film make the most of it. He plays the Eddie we expect, but he manages to fit this Eddie into the film and become the believable, bumbling but ultimately clever assistant to two successive bosses. He progresses from being the trickster for a false medium to an idea man (!) for a CEO whose bakery operates under the slogan, “Glorifying the American doughnut.”
The film is from 1931, and Cantor is slightly — just slightly — too large for the close-up camera. Those banjo eyes almost overwhelm us. But his adjustment to the camera is greatly superior to Al Jolson’s in some of his work. Jolson, who apparently thought he was sexy, tries to burn holes in the camera lens with supposedly smoldering eyes. Eddie Cantor, with no idea that he is sexy, of course IS.
Charlotte Greenwood is excellent, and Busby Berkeley’s dances are consistently interesting, and premonitory.
I had not seen this film since watching it on television when my children were small. But Palmy Days sticks with you. My grown kids can still sing the melody of “The Lady Says, ‘Yes! Yes!'”.
NEXT POST FRIDAY November 1 with more from Cinesation
See you at the movies!