« The Eternal Sin »
It is gorgeous and thrilling. The coffers of an Aladdin were inverted to give its director the opulant scenics the subject demanded. Its premiere at the Broadway last Sunday evening attracted an audience that blocked Broadway for half an hour before curtain time. No more imposing galaxy of profesionals has been seen save at a stage matinee at the height of the season. The acting was at all times distinctive and almost flawless. Even the camera man was inspired with the splendors of his opportunities and admirably caught the right textures of soft shadings and blending lights at precisely the articulations necessary for dramatic effect and emphasis. The cunning of director Herbert Brenon in the capture of novelty of focus elicited admiration almost throughout. The financial sponsor of the project proved his courage in the undertaking. Fairly spilling gold on a costume production of its pretentious magnitude at an hour when costume plays of past periods are tabooed, required an artist's appreciation of the absurdity of considering cost when the muses of beauty order otherwise. Sets of pretentious and impressive magnitude, great courtyards fascinating in their enchantements of distance ; marble and other fac-similes of medieval art ; effects of tapestries and silver and gold plate bespeaking the riches of a royal dilettante - a composite attesting the indefatigable industry of the researcher after absolutely accurate detail - all rolled entrancingly before the constantly astonished eye. It was a banquet for the idealist. Exquisite it was from end to end. But - and the pity od it is that there is a but - but the subject wasn't worth the effort. The inspirations for its selection were only to be guessed at. Perhaps it was the great success of the first film made after a drama of its author, "Les Miserables" ; perhaps it was the paucity of feature material available in current scenarios. Maybe it was the hypnotism of the Hugo name. Whatever the answer, the selection was a mistake. The careful attempt of the adapters and producer to establish a sympathetic relation between the audience and the leading character, failed signally. Lucrezia Borgia was a ruthless monster, a poisoner without a conscience ; a fiend incarnate when opportunity for inconceivable cruelty to human beings offered ; a hideous gargoyle in the guise of a woman. The premiere audience knew this. Those who couldn't give the name that symbolized this malign entity knew such a woman at one time existed somewhere on earth and did the things tradition or history ascribed to her just as they knew of the stains of Cain. And with this failure to capture sympathy emphasized, the drama of the picture became a shambles, a museum of horrors for the slaying of men. The audience sees some half dozen disposed of artistically but brutally by the wheel and other forms of mid-italian legal murder. The picture's denouement sees seven more lives extinguished, including the fateful creature to whom the suffering and death of others was a delightful tango. Hugo, a poseur when he wasn't sublime, wrote the play in its original when the others of the Romantic guild were pandering to realism in fiction. The story tabloided shows how Lucrezia's husband traps the grown son of his wife by a former secret mariage, thinking he is capturing his wife's secret lover. Lucrezia finds herself face to face with the problem of either confessing her past, permitting the murder of her son before her eyes, or tricking him to freedom. The suspense of the pictured drama up to this situation is insistent and of cumulative intensity. When Sunday evening's audience, however, found the subtlety of the heroine reposed solely in an antidote that Lucrezia conveniently carried in her lingerie - the son had been given poisoned wine - that which had been tragedy remained so, perhaps, for the intellectual ingenues present, but became glittering farce for the sophisticated. The picture in its almost wholly morbid atmosphere suggests the fetid atmosphere of a criminal court during the trial of a capital case with a wholesale murderer in the dock. These trials draw tremendous crowds. Maybe the photo drama will. Letters of box car size accredited the direction of the picture to Herbert Brenon. Lewis J. Selznick's vignette showed at the edge of the panel announcement. Flortense and always sincere son attractively in a visor-like role, but it may please her to know she is still quite too young for an offspring even so youthful as the handsome, tense and always sincere son attractively played by Richard Barthelmess. Jolo.