Through the Box Office Window
Reviewers’ Views On Feature Films
Edited by C.S. Sewell
Moving Picture World – March 13, 1926
“La Boheme”—M-G-M Exquisite Masterpiece, with John Gilbert and Lillian Gish, Sharing New King Vidor Triumph
KEEPING up the record of four specials from the Marcus Loew forces showing simultaneously on Broadway at advanced prices for indefinite runs, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is presenting “La Boheme” starring Lillian Gish and John Gilbert, at the Embassy Theatre, following “The Merry Widow,” which scored a huge Known to music lovers everywhere because of the opera of the same title, this story by Fred deGresac was suggested by Harry Murger’s ‘Life in the Latin Quarter.”
King Vidor has filmed it in a masterful manner, and following his phenomenal hit, “The Big Parade,’’ from which it differs entirely in type, places him even more in the limelight as one of the screen’s greatest directors. The entire action takes place in the Latin Quarter of Paris, and all the fascination, the buoyancy, the pathos, the humor and heart throbs, the cheerful suffering and sacrifice for ideals, the irrepressible light-heartedness that meets unkind fate with a smile, which has proved the inspiration for many of the greatest writers, has been caught and deftly transferred to the silver sheet. “La Boheme’’ is the story of the romance Of Mimi – an orphan girl, who ekes out a mere living with her embroidery, and Rodolphe, a struggling playwright. It is an emotional drama in which a great love is faced with maddening jealousy in conflict with supreme and ideal self-sacrifice that counts not its cost. Mimi gives her love to Rodolphe and that he may complete his great play, toils and stints until she wrecks her health. Her reward is Rodolphe’s almost insane jealousy. So that he may work unhampered she disappears and, hiding in the slums, the frail flower works in a mill until she succumbs. On the very night that Rodolphe finally scores success with his play, she drags herself back to her old home in the garret in the Latin Quarter, but it is too late. She dies happy in the realization of Rodolphe’s love and triumph. Courageously, those responsible for the production of this picture have dared to present it with the only denouement consistent with the development of the action : an ending of stark tragedy and powerful drama, in which there is not the slightest hint of compromise with the familiar idea that a romance must find its fulfillment in the final reel.
A happy ending here would be inconsistent and anti-climax, out of focus with the tenor of the theme and destroy the effectiveness of the powerful drama that has been so admirably built up. From every standpoint “La Boheme’’ is a credit to the screen. In its direction, action, development and pictorial perfection it is a masterpiece. It is like a piece of delicate, hand-painted china in its beauty and exquisiteness. Its reaction is entirely emotional, with its appeal resting on smiles and tears. The story opens in a light-hearted, happy-go-lucky vein, and there is a wealth of fine characterization and delicious humor that makes the story vivid, buoyant and real.
You see the types in the Paris Latin Quarter presented in all the fascination that your imagination has pictured them. With the appearance of Mimi, the pathetic note enters and these two notes are alternately struck with the pathos continually mounting until its result is stark tragedy. The screening of this story is flawless. We do not believe that King Vidor’s direction, the selection of types, the work of the work of the players even in the most minor role or the technical details could have been improved upon. Lillian Gish makes an ideal Mimi, the role exactly suiting her in every respect and she has never appeared to better advantage. Her handling of the entire story, but especially from the time she drags herself through the streets until she rests in death, will linger long in the memory. John Gilbert as Rodolphe does the best work of his career, and adds an entirely different type of character to his growing list of fine screen portrayals.
“La Boheme” will stand as a monument to the industry and gain a host of friends for the screen from the ranks who have pretended to look askance at the motion picture, and all who like the better, finer, more beautiful things of life. Women especially should respond to its intense emotional appeal which will bring many a tear.
Based on story by Fred DeGresac, suggested by Henry Murger’s “Life In the Latin
Quarter” Scenario by Ray Doyle and Harry Behn
Directed by King Vidor