13 Washington Square (1928) Universal Pictures. Presenter: Carl Laemmle. Director: Melville W. Brown. Adaptation-Continuity: Harry O. Hoyt. Titles: Walter Anthony. Photography: John Stumar. Editor: Ray Curtiss. Cast: Jean Hersholt, Alice Joyce, George Lewis, ZaSu Pitts, Helen Foster, Helen Jerome Eddy, Julia Swayne Gordon, Jack McDonald, Jerry Gamble. 6 reels, 6,274 ft. A copy of this film is located the UCLA Film and Television Archives (16 mm, ca. 1600 ft, tinted, lacks main titles).
|Stills and lobby cards from the film. Thanks to Derek Boothroyd for these pictures.|
Click thumbnails for larger images.
See a Lantern Slide advertising this film from the collection at the Cleveland Public Library
Universal production and release, directed by Melville W. Brown. Starring Alice Joyce and Jean Hersholt. From the play of the same name by Leroy Scott. Titles by Walter Anthony. At the Roxy, New York, week of Jan. 28. Running time, 70 minutes.
|"Deacon" Pyecroft||Jean Hersholt|
|Mrs. De Peyster||Alice Joyce|
|Jack De Peyster||George Lewis|
|Mary Morgan||Helen Foster|
|Olivetta||Helen Jerome Eddy|
|Mrs. Allistair||Julia Swayne Gordon|
Entertaining picture, with appeal to the intelligent among the screen public and likely to be voted mild by the gum-chewing clientele. Away from the Universal style, U ordinarily making program pictures for the masses. Will please as a program release, without setting any high marks as an independent draw. Stars and title not figured as a pull.
But will please regular house following, on the score of its clean-cut romantic story, its atmosphere of elegance and comedy that is robust while not rowdy. Beautifully produced and acted with crisp competence. Mystery element is turned to comedy purposes and the thrills are not worked up. Has a world of mild laughs, but they never get beyond the polite classification.
All of which adds up to an average picture for the better class patronage. The kind of film the screen critics demand in their crusades for better pictures, but the kind of product the mob doesn't crowd in to see. Would be poor opposition for a star name with a hot title.
Zasu Pitts, in the comedy role of a lady's maid who always gets her long words mixed up, has the prize character and plays it. Here is a character comedienne who has seldom been supplied with parts that would advance her. In this picture she gives a finely balanced performance in a part that could have been clowned to death. Alice Joyce, as an aristocratic mother, has a charming and graceful figure, but aristocratic mamas do not make popular pictures. Jean Hersholt plays the sympathetic crook part that came near making the piece when it was on the stage. It isn't a screen part, calling for too little significant acting and too much illumination in titles. Most of the interesting things the crook does are conveyed by title.
Romantic story is just a side angle of interest. Sympathetic interest is bound up in the mother and the crook and what grip the story has in its celluloid form is confined to these two. For the rest there is little action in the cinema meaning of the word, and an impatient flapper fan might call it dull.
These defects are inherent in the story material, for it has been produced in faultless taste. The settings showing an aristocratic home in Washington Square are remarkably well done. A room in Washington Square is just that, instead of a de luxe furniture display set out in Grand Central Palace. Acting is scaled on the same moderate and reasonable plane.
It's satisfying playing of this sort of material, but the substance of the story never once gets hold of the sympathies.
Last revised May 30, 2009