They Had to See Paris

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 29, 2015

This is the guy who directed Street Angel? If Borzage had continued on like this he might have become a John Gilbert-like casualty, and with better reason. This film has a snail’s pace, and it’s made up of scenes that are, basically, dramatically inert. Could it be Will Rogers’ fault? I know he was beloved and all, but his performance in this film is just agonizing. His reputation concerning his on set methods comes to mind here. There he is, dithering in that mannered fashion, taking nearly forever while everyone else just has to sit there waiting on him. It’s no way to make a movie. At least the Marx Brothers moved; at least Stan and Ollie had some scrupulous structure and timing to their forays into dead time.

It’s not just the pace, but the persona too. His wife’s criticisms, for all their obscuring by her by-the-numbers social ambition, are basically right on. What a rube! Home spun is one thing, but this aggressive provincialism is positively dangerous. By all means lets counter Henry James and Sinclair Lewis. But let’s do it by being Mark Twain! Of course there’s much more to Rogers than this film, but on the evidence of this film he’s a mere lugubrious hayseed.

The profligate son is interesting, as are the machinations by which the Rogers character draws him back in to the fold. The discourse on immorality is definitely Borzagian. The closing speech about young people and old people is probably all the star. It’s a pretty good one.

The oil blow out is cool. There are a couple of felicitous lines. “I’ve got absolutely nothing to do here, and now you hire an able bodied man to help me do it.” “Where’s that woman?” “Which one?”