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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Strange Interlude (1932)

When a young bride (Norma Shearer) finds out from her mother in law (May Robson) that she can never have children because insanity runs in the family, she is shattered because she desperately wants a child. So she takes her husband's (Alexander Kirkland) best friend (Clark Gable) as her lover and passes their love child off as that of her and her husband. Of all the theatrical pieces that resist transitioning to film, Eugene O'Neill's STRANGE INTERLUDE would seem to be at the top of the list. O'Neill's massive Pulitzer prize winning play which runs anywhere from four to six hours (either with a dinner break or performed over two separate nights) has its characters speak what they're thinking out loud often necessitating a slight difference in speaking tone so that its audience are able to decipher when the lines are addressed to the other characters and when to the audience alone. On stage, this can be quite tricky to carry off successfully and something the film doesn't even attempt. Instead, those inner thoughts are played as voice overs. In the end, it doesn't matter. O'Neill's 4 hours plus play has been gutted for the film to just under two hours. It contains the worst ensemble acting I've ever seen in one film. Shearer is godawful, Gable is, well ..... Gable but the most egregious performance is courtesy of Ralph Morgan as the prissy mama's boy in love with Shearer. Proof positive that not everything from Hollywood's "golden age" was golden. Still, it's an appallingly fascinating curio. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard. With Robert Young and Maureen O'Sullivan.

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