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I found a new big-eyed doll


slaytonf
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And her name is Nancy Carroll. Two huge orbs in a sweet pan of a face. Move over Claudette Colbert--at least to the side, a little. She seems to have been a popular star in her time--the 30s, mostly. Why haven't we heard and seen more of her here? Her movie this morning was Child of Manhattan. Standard romantic stuff, though it starts out fresh enough. And, it being pre code-enforcement, it's open enough about extra-marital affairs and even (gasp!) abortion. But, convention wins out, and true love conquers all the insurmountable obstacles of class, ethnicity, and--oh well, true love wins out. But it's Nancy Carroll's eyes that are the true stars of this little movie. My, how they capture your attention. I'll be looking for other of her films to see if her acting matches her eyes.

 

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Nancy Carroll was at her peak at the very end of the 1920s and very beginning of the 1930s. But as has been mentioned, during her peak years she was under contract at Paramount. Not sure why she so quickly went into eclipse; she was helped by Clara Bows fall from grace, despite their different images, and did some roles originally meant for Bow. But so did Claudette Colbert and Sylvia Sidney, both arriving on the lot in 1931, as did the highly touted find, Dietrich. The latter hogged all the publicity budget, it seems, while the others provided direct competition that Carroll was unable to surmount. So by the mid30s, she was gone from the studio and her career in sharp decline.

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Some of her films are on YouTube (sanctioned, it looks like). Just watched The Dance of Life (1929), a film that gives the lie to the conventional view of early talkies' stiff direction and flat acting. The plot is conventional, a backstage story of a talented, but weak comic, destined for the big time (or the big wheel, as they call it in the movie), and the woman who loves him, no matter what. But the dialog and performances are what make it a cut way above the average. It has a naturalness of speech and easiness of delivery rare in movies, a quality which the pre code-enforcement era seemed to foster. A fragile quality, which the imposition of the code destroyed as a corollary effect along with the other, more noted features of those movies; and which wasn't seen again in film for another twenty-five years or so.

 

You can certainly see why Nancy Carroll was a popular star in her time. She is a fine actress and comes across as unpretentious and sincere. I've only seen her in roles of working class girls, which may be what she specialized in. I'm glad to see she fulfilled the promise of Child of Manhattan. I look forward to other of her films.

 

Though the camerawork is static, especially in the musical numbers, it certainly isn't immobile. And there are some absolutely arresting moments where the camera studies the characters while they study themselves. I attribute this to John Cromwell's direction. He was a director whose work, no one, as the man said, need be ashamed of.

 

It's unfortunate that TCM's lack of access to some studios' production gives us an incomplete picture of the filmworld of the past. Let's hope their efforts to penetrate their libraries will be successful.

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This is a very sad and dramatic anti-war film from 1932 and it should be more famous than it is.

 

Nancy Carroll was a very good dramatic actress.

 

 

*The Broken Lullaby*

 

Nancy Carroll ... Fraulein Elsa, Walter's Fianc?e

Phillips Holmes ... Paul Renard

Lionel Barrymore ... Dr. H. Holderlin

 

 

Spanish subtitles have been added to this copy.

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