THE IRON MASK
Starring Douglas Fairbanks and Marguerite De La Motte
THE FILM SPECTATOR
February 9, 1929
The greatest argument against gabby pictures that has been advance since we've had them is "The Iron Mask," the latest Douglas Fairbanks picture. It is a superb example of screen art in its highest form, the new art that employs the sound device with intelligence, discretion and sympathy. There is no dialogue in the picture, but there is an ennobling theme, superb acting and glorious photography; a story that moves swiftly when the spirited action demands it, that hastens along with a chuckle and a joyous ring of steel when it is happy, and pauses and becomes sober when it is sad. Through it all, the glitter of it, its royal trappings, its romance and its tragedies, shines the bright light of an exquisite sense of humor, an exuberant boyishness that is uplifting to the spirits and a balm to the mind. Doug makes different kinds of pictures. It is difficult to compare "The Gaucho" with "The Thief of Bagdad," or "Robin Hood" with "Three Musketeers;" and it is equally difficult to compare "The Iron Mask" with any of the others from the box-office angle, but I have no hesitation in giving it as my opinion that never before has he given us such an exemplification of the real meaning of screen art. In every scene "The Iron Mask" reflects the contact it had with mature picture minds. There are directorial subtleties in it, little touches of rare genius that will delight those who know something about screen art, and which help to make it screen entertainment that will delight those whose only demand on a motion picture is that it pleases them. Doug again proves the honest merchant. He is giving his customers full measure. "The Iron Mask" has a great production, and Henry Sharp has photographed it with a skill that is amazing. I have seen no shots on the screen that give a more vivid impression of the third dimension or which make such individual portraits out of the members of groups. The perfection reached in all the mechanical and physical arts that enter into the making of a picture, is matched in the story and the manner of telling it. In ever way "The Iron mask" gives us a riper Doug. As usual, he wrote his own story - under the name of Elton Thomas - and he put into it more feeling and richer humor than have characterized any of his previous screen writing. The historical and personal elements have been blended with rare skill in both the writing of the story and the editing of the picture. With a nicety that is fascinating, the capacity of the audience to assimilate history is judged. Just before we come to the point of missing Doug and his jovial companions, they come bounding into the picture again with joyous abandon and carry on with the zest that made "The Three Musketeers" one of the landmarks of screen history. And as an actor we have a riper Doug, one who reminds us of the athlete of the years that reach back and holds out a promise of the screen artist of the years to come. Never has he given a finer and more finished performance. And when we pause to think of all he has done for this picture as author, producer and actor, the only feeling we can have for him is one of deep and real admiration. The cast is a long one and a perfect one. You will find it farther along in the "Spectator" and you can write "well done" after each name in it. It brings back to us a splendid little actress in the person of Marguerite de la Motte, whose talents have been overlooked through the film industry's unexplainable habit of neglecting some of those who have served it well. She gives a notable performance which I hope will lead to her more frequent appearance on the screen. William Bakewell proves himself to be a boy with a man's acting skill. He has a dual role, a good and a bad personality and carries both parts admirably, providing a study in transitions that should please all those who can appreciate what is good in screen acting. Nigel de Brulier and Ulrich Haupt are among the others who make big contributions to the production. Allan Swan's direction is flawless. He brings out the full value of every scene. Coming at a time when the industry is talking talkies, "The Iron Mask" should serve to restore its sanity and to bring it back to its regular business of making motion pictures and not artistic hybrids that can not be classified. Also it is a complete answer to those who feel that screen art has lacked something. It proves that it most decidedly does not need dialogue, although it might do with a few more Dougs.
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