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Bulldog Drummond Movie Review

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It's hard to sit through early talkies made in 1929, even if they've been archivally restored until they're as glistening as the day they were released. There are, of course, exceptions: Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail, F. Richard Jones’ Bulldog Drummond, ahm….ahm…ahm…and I'm thinking it over! Well, definitely Blackmail and Bulldog Drummond, anyway. Blackmail also exists as a breezy silent film, but the charm of Bulldog Drummond is to hear, for the very first time, the beautiful voice of Ronald Colman, then 38, in the title role. Independent producer Samuel Goldwyn may not have been the first to crack the new market, but he was far and away the classiest. Captain Hugh Drummond is bored out of his skull, so he takes out a London Times advertisement announcing that he's ready for adventure. Phyllis Benton (Joan Bennett, then 19) asks him to rescue her uncle (Charles Sell-on as Hiram J. Travers) from the clutches of the villainous Dr. Lakington (Lawrence Grant). Drummond and his loyal buddy Algy Longworth (Claud Allister) are on the job! Unlike many creaky vehicles of this transitional era, Bulldog Drummond moves at a breathless clip and there's even time for a 70-year-old gag about halitosis, drolly communicated to one of the bad guys by Bulldog: “Even your best friends won't tell you.” It's also a treat to see Lilyan Tashman as the nasty femme fatale Erma. (Tashman was one of Hollywood's best-dressed blondes until her early death in 1934.) Everything about the production is fresh and funny and audiences clamored to pay the $2 (pre-Depression) admission fee. Colman worked 18-hour days to earn his first Oscar nomination for this one, although he finally demanded a less exhausting schedule. He made 26 more films over the next 28 years and finally won an Oscar on his third try for 1947's A Double Life. And Bennett, less alluring as a blonde than as the bottle brunette she would become in 1938, still had a sense of her own worth by refusing to make a screen test. (She was still working 75 films later, well into her 70s.) Based on the novel by Herman Cyril “Sapper” McNeile and the play by McNeile and Gerald DuMaurier.

1929 85m/B Ronald Colman, Joan Bennett, Montagu Love, Lilyan Tashman, Lawrence Grant, Wilson Benge, Claud Allister, Adolph Milar, Charles Sellon, Tetsu Komai, Donald Novis; D: F. Richard Jones; W: Sidney Howard, Wallace Smith; C: George Barnes, Gregg Toland. Nominations: Academy Awards ‘30: Best Actor (Colman), Best Interior Decoration, Best Interior Decoration. VHS, LV

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