De Luxe Annie (1918) Norma Talmadge Film Corporation/Select Pictures Corporation. Presented by Joseph Schenck. Directed by Roland West. Scenario by Paul West. Camera by Ed Wynard and Albert Moses. Cast: Norma Talmadge, Eugene O'Brien, Frank Mills, Edna Hunter, Fred. R. Stanton, Joseph Burke, Edwards Davis, Harriet Jenkins, David Burns. 7 reels. A copy of this film is located at the Library of Congress (35 mm., some deterioration)
|Julie Kendal||Norma Talmadge|
|Walter Kendal||Frank Mills|
|Dr. Fernand Niblo||Edwards Davis|
|"De Luxe Annie"||Edna Hunter|
|Jimmy Fitzpatrick||Eugene O'Brien|
That "De Luxe Annie" should have been chosen for a feature film is quite as fortunate for Norma Talmadge, its star, as the fact reflects credit upon the judgment of the person who saw the screen possibilities in this play. Here is an instance where the film version must be stronger than "De Luxe Annie" on the speaking stage could have been, for the very simple reason--if the play had been made as interesting, it would be running yet, which it is not.
Just why Miss Talmadge was fortunate through this selection is almost as simple. "De Luxe Annie" gives her a wide range. Norma Talmadge, in a wide range of screen playing, is proving herself extremely versatile in character and playing, putting over a kaleidoscopic performance that she may always look back to with much personal gratification.
This Talmadge girl appears to be highly popular. Monday afternoon at the Rialto, an afternoon that was the poorest of the hot spell so far for attendance in the theatre, the Rialto did not have an empty seat from two until after four, and perhaps longer than that, although the house immediately started to empty when the Talmadge picture ended.
To an analyzing audience "De Luxe Annie" doesn't stand up so well as a story through its improbabilities, but for the average audience, it contains a certain interest. Love and crime, with the admixture always running smoothly, while the "coincidental complications" appear to have been so well adjusted that they do not clash on film or mind.
Though "De Luxe Annie" as taken by Miss Talmadge, for the greater portion of the picture is the compatriot of Jimmy Fitzpatrick, a crook, the captions make quite clear no illicit relations existed, which is of no little aid in sustaining the proper quantity of sympathy.
That Annie made so skillful a crook in the badger and other games is a mark to Miss Talmadge, for during the period of her loss of memory, when she could not recall her husband nor her daughter, placing all of her faith in crooked Jimmy she artistically conveyed without it being dwelt upon a mental streak such as might be found in a slightly insane person. Her changes of expression and looks are worth talking about. While this is a natural assistance to her in character playing, it is unexplainable unless it has been a study. There's something peculiarly odd in her chameleon-like looks.
Eddie Clark wrote "De Luxe Annie. One could almost tell that without the program information, though the names of prominent and former White Rats on the characters--Kendal, Niblo, Fitzpatrick. Paul West made the adaptation and Roland West directed. Jos. M. Schenck presents the feature and it is with Select for distribution. Mr. West gave it much attention to detail and action. He has secured good action, not losing an opportunity there, and there are some light effects well handled. The tipping over of a sleigh on a snowy road, the skating over the ice and a furious fight are three incidents that stand out. The finish is sentimentally strong and "De Luxe Annie" easily takes rank among Miss Talmadge's best pictures to date, thanks to Miss Talmadge and her staff, including the other players. Eugene O'Brien did finely as Jimmy, Frank Mills was a convincing husband-lover, and F. Stanton nicely took his bit as a detective.
The feature at the Rialto this week is Edward Clark's play, "De Luxe Annie," made into a movie with some switching of the sequence of the original story and the omission of the rather unconvincing prologue and epilogue presented on the stage. "De Luxe Annie" as many must know, is about a girl who, suffering from amnesia, becomes an accomplished crook and is brought to recognize her husband, home and friends only after an operation on her head. The piece is faithful to the principles of melodrama rather than to medical science and will no doubt be enjoyed by those who don't care about such things as possibility and coherence in plot. Norma Talmadge, as the heroine, plays her part well and, in general, the acting is good.
This film represents something of a departure for both Norma Talmadge and Eugene O'Brien, and they gleefully play their roles to the hilt. Instead of exhibiting his usual manner of bland bewilderment, O'Brien is almost unrecognizable with his derby and stogie, making tough-guy mouths. Talmadge has a field day and the part is a perfect fit for her mastery of the quick change of expression. She is not afraid to make silly faces or ugly faces, or even psychotic faces. She and O'Brien look like they are having fun. It is quite a refreshing change to see Talmadge as something other than the put-upon victim of circumstances, though the plot--the height of ludicrousness--manages to have it both ways. Interestingly, her character certainly seems unhappy to give up her life of crime for domesticity. A ridiculous film full of crackpot psychology, but quite enjoyable for the performances.
Print viewed: 35 mm print at the Library of Congress. Some deterioration in reel 4 and splotchiness in reel 5.
Last revised, August 17, 2005