Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Locked Door (1929)

Barabara Stanwyck's first talkie is mostly of interest because it was Barbara Stanwyck's first talkie. Rod La Roque, who played opposite to Norma Shearer in Let Us Be Gay, is also present this time as the villain. La Roque is far better in this capacity and although his speech is still somewhat affected, his timing is better as the smarmy wolf, Devereaux. The Locked Door is particularly dated because it takes a mini history lesson to understand a big chunk of the plot. Filmed before the end of prohibition when ships moored off the coastlines of major cities were convenient ways to skirt the drinking laws and where nice girls didn't go with strange men. For once Barbara plays a naive young lady who trustingly accompanies her boss's son on one such a notorious cruise. Her virtue is only just saved by a raid as Devereaux traps her in a private dining room and presents her with the first of several locked doors. Later after she is happily married to her new boss Lawrence Regan, (William Boyd) Devereaux turns up on the arm of her new sister in law. ZaSu Pitts makes a fairly unfunny attempt at comic relief about midway through the action which becomes increasingly melodramatic till its conclusion. I think the Locked Door is mainly of interest to Stanwyck fans and though she was not proud of her work in it, she stands out of the crowd anyway.


kda0121 said...

A bit static, partly because of poor quality of the sound equipment, but also to the newcomers to film. Rod La Rocque, who has a large role here was reduced to a small supporting one in Meet John Doe, the 1941 Frank Capra classic, starring Barbara and Gary Cooper. I always wonder what thoughts were going through their (La Rocque and others like him), when they were reduced to bit parts with someone they co-starred with just a little over a decade earlier.

Jennythenipper said...

Yeah, I wonder that too. However, I think that happens today as well, as a star ages, they move into character parts and supporting roles. I think it was condensed because of the big transition into sound. In Nick LaSalle's book, "Dangerous Men" he said that the decadent playboy type that was the hero in twenties, became the villain in the thirties. That's certainly true here.