Reviewed May 12, 2012
Michael Dean’s review:
This is the first silent film I can remember ever watching. I will say that watching a silent film requires more of your attention than modern films. Without being able to hear what is going on you really have to be watching the screen or you're going to miss something.
I really enjoyed this film. While not on the level of Capra's later masterpieces, you can see all the elements of a classic Capra film. The high-and-mighty sophisticates who think they're better than everyone else. The "little punks" who put their heart and soul into what they do. The clash of the two. When the small town acting troupe goes to broadway and their Civil War drama is greeted by roars of laughter, you feel for them. The old man, so proud of the play he had written, breaks down in tears, and I almost did too. I certainly did not expect to be so moved by a silent picture. It wasn't the It's a Wonderful Life waterworks, of course, but I was misty eyed watching the old man's heart break like that.
Some people may be put off by the use of blackface in the film. Accepting that blackface was standard practice for 1928, here it is not used in any derogitory way. It is really only a means of disguise in this picture, allowing for the Don Wilson character to keep his dual identity of Harry Mann a secret.
I thought this movie was really good and a fantastic look at Capra honing his craft early on.