Wednesday, February 3, 2010

George Arliss

TCM's theme for 31 Days of Oscar this year is based on the "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, in that each pair of movies has at least one person in common. This means that TCM is showing a pair of George Arliss movies back-to-back in the early hours of tomorrow morning, starting with his Oscar-winning performance in Disraeli.

Arliss plays the title role, that being Victorian-era British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Based on a stage play, the movie deals with Disraeli's plan to buy the Suez Canal for Britain, despite there being machinations from Russia and its spies in London trying to prevent him from getting the canal. Along the way, Disraeli plays matchmaker to a pair of young lovers, played by the reasonably well-known Joan Bennett (the mother in the 1950 version of Father of the Bride, and the not-so-well-known Anthony Bushell. Also appearing is George's real-life wife Florence, playing Mrs. Disraeli.

The movie was made in 1929, at a time when the studios were figuring out how to adjust to the new process of talking pictures, which as always means that the production values an be uneven, as well as the acting. The one exception to this is Arliss, who shines above everybody else, and makes the movie worth watching despite all its technical problems. Of course, the role wasn't difficult for him, since he had created the role on the stage and already done it on screen once before in the silent era.

Disraeli has, as far as I'm aware, not been released to DVD yet.

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