Rouben Mamoulian directs a musical/comedy that spoofs American gangster films. It’s taken from a story by Leo Birinski and written by Wallace Smith. The black-and-white photography was restored to their original sharp tones by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in cooperation with The Mary Pickford Foundation. The lighthearted parody veers between slightly amusing turns to irritating broadside comedy that includes bad Mexican accents, dumb gags, lame jokes, Hollywood in-jokes and convoluted plot twists. It’s goofy, friendly and harmless fun, that should appeal to fans of Mamoulian who haven’t seen him do comedies (this being his first). The film’s star is Nino Martini, a tenor with the Metropolitan Opera, who richly sings such songs as “Cielito lindo”, “Adios mi tierra”, “The World is Mine Tonight” and “Celeste Aida.” Nino can’t act a lick, but he sure can sing. —Dennis Schwartz
With the possible exception of Stanley Kubrick, no director who worked in the Hollywood studio system ever exerted more influence over the entire field of film, and the sensibilities of audiences, than Rouben Mamoulian. With an output of a mere 16 movies across just 30 years, the Russian-born Armenian-descended Mamoulian, working as director and producer much of the time, managed to generate an array of classic films in the musical, dramatic, and action-adventure fields, and was also involved in the planning and all but the final direction of three renowned Hollywood films.
Rouben Mamoulian was born in Tbilisi — which was 60-percent Armenian at the time — in Russian Georgia, in 1897. He attended university in Moscow, studying law, no less, when he decided to join the Second Studio at the Moscow Art Theater, where he studied under Vakhtangov. It was during Mamoulian’s early training as an actor and a director that he learned the importance of rhythm — structural rhythm — in creating… read more