starring Colleen Moore and Gary Cooper
Another thrilling, romantic war drama, in which Colleen Moore covers herself with glory.
"Lilac Time" is a small farm near the French front, where seven of the Royal Flying Corps are quartered. Its lilac garden forms an exquisite setting for this love story. It is essentially a beautiful lover story, but the war background is as realistic as if it were the central theme. It is, necessarily, reminiscent of other air pictures, but it also has much that is new and breath-taking.
Colleen Moore, as Jeannine, and Gary Cooper, as Captain Philip Blythe, do beautiful work in the romantic roles, and an excellent supporting cast assists in the spectacular activity, the result being one of Colleen's most compelling and elaborate pictures. It's too good to miss.
Starring Colleen Moore and Gary Cooper
THE FILM SPECTATOR
June 23, 1928
By long odds, a greater picture than "Wings" is "Lilac Time," Colleen Moore's contribution to the air epics of the screen. It is greater than the Paramount picture because it is equally thrilling and, in addition, has what "Wings" lacks, a connected, coherent and dramatic story from which it does not depart for as much as one foot of film. "Lilac Time" might be taken as a model for pictures that are planned as supers. From the opening scene until the last it seems to concern itself only with telling its story. As it lets nothing interfere with the telling, the story moves swiftly along its logical course and holds our interest in it as a story. The same story set in any other environment would hold our interest. That is the test that any story should pass before it is screened. If it does not have enough inherent strength to keep us interested when it is told in a shanty, it lacks strength enough to warrant it being told in a palace. "Lilac Time" has strength enough to warrant it being told in any setting. But it is told in France, and it is war time when young fellows take their seats in planes and grin as they fly towards death; when foes meet above clouds and have it out up there until one combatant falls through a cloud, and the other wipes his wounds and looks for another fight; when romance remains alive though nations pass away. "Lilac Time" is a romance possessing all the terrific trimming that war could adorn it with. I saw it before it had some of the trimmings that will be added prior to its release. It was strictly silent when I viewed it, but when it is released, it will have talking sequences and sound effects that should improve it immensely, for it is a picture that will lend itself admirably to the application of sound. But it is great, even as a silent picture. Colleen never before has appeared in anything with such dramatic and pictorial sweep. And she never gave a better performance. She is in the story logically by reason of being a French girl at whose farm aviators are stationed. At no place does the story strain itself to keep going. It is quite unlike the story of "Wings" which commits suicide when it takes Clara Bow to France. George Fitzmaurice directed "Lilac Time." The last previous picture of his that I viewed -- "Rose of Monterey" -- was so beautiful that it was not true, and I had grown to look upon Fitz as a director who had no peer in spreading beauty on the screen, even if he had to sacrifice drama to get it. I take it back. Fitzmaurice has done a magnificent job with his direction of "Lilac Time." At no time does he sacrifice drama to beauty, but in several sequences he mixes the two, giving us scenes of exquisite beauty and romantic strength. In some shots showing a road crowded with people who are evacuating a village, Fitzmaurice uses a row of eucalyptus trees as a gorgeous frame for the action. The shots above the clouds are not as impressively beautiful as those in "Wings," but George did not have as much latitude in framing them. A director on the ground cannot control very well the work of actors on the other side of a cloud. I am surprised, though, that a director with such a highly developed artistic sense as Fitzmaurice possesses, should give us in close-ups a love scene set among lilac bushes. He had everything at hand to combine into a love scene of surpassing beauty and tenderness, but he throws all of it away and gives us the kind of shots that the public is tiring of. There is another scene that is weakened greatly by close-up treatment. Gary Cooper is leaving on a flight that means almost certain death, and is saying farewell to Colleen, whom he loves. The leave-taking is shown in an exceedingly stupid close-up. It should have been a medium shot, with the line of planes showing dimly in the background, thereby retaining as part of the scene the grim thought back of it. Gary Cooper gives a splendid performance in "Lilac Time." He is more human and likable than I have seen him in most of his pictures. Eugenie Besserer is fine as Colleen's mother, and several others in a long cast distinguish themselves. The picture is one that I recommend without reservation to all exhibitor readers of The Spectator.
Video source: Killiam collection
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