Starring Ramon Novarro, Dorothy Janis and Donald Crisp
May 15, 1929
"Pagan Love Song" sure fire formula sentimental ballad, together with the billing possibilities of Ramon Novarro singing it, is enough to do the trick for the release. Picture has plenty of assets, among them the always effective topic love element, smashing photography and a fine production. Particular interest to the fem fan, and word of mouth should make it a builder for week dates.
Novarro does a capital bit of acting the only weakness being a dull fight climax, which injures an otherwise effective performance. Weakness here probably is inherent in the story rather than a lapse of either player or director. Point of he whole narrative is a contrast between the simplicity and kindliness of he South Seas half-cast and the hypocritical cruelty of the white trader. When these two characters come to grips at the finale, it might injure the literary point to have the docile native turn tiger. Delicate ethnic question here, but for screen purposes the present treatment is disappointingly mild.
Story has in it a quality resembling "Sadie Thompson" although it is dealt with in an incidental way. Even then it contributed to interest.
Van Dyke also directed "White Shadows," which had its day on Broadway. In "The Pagan," the same director , working in the same locale, has achieved notable beauty of settings for his romantic tale. Sky and sea shots are stunning. Tricky camera angles of the hero swimming out to an off-shore vessel are examples of fine dramatic and pictorial sense.
Theme song, one of those slow, lilting chansons, is skillfully woven into the action, reprised time and again always in a manner appropriate to the situation and taking effectiveness from that fact. Here on tropic beach, sings to moonlit sea, and heroine captive on trader's ship replies. Again, when the lovers have for the moment triumphed and are together in a mountain retreat, hero sings a phrase and the girl, idling in he house, makes musical rply.
Novarro and Dorothy Janis have nice voices in this reproduction and the sentimental motif of the song touches the romantic situation with a good deal of color, no matter who is singing.
Picture is entirely without dialog, although sound effects of many kinds. Church bells ring, birds carol around the couple's retreat and other incidental bits, but ht title method of exposition is used throughout. Title writer has done a good job, titles being colored with just the right shade of humor. For instance, on the introduction of he vicious white trader, line is "When East meets West the result is six barrooms and one bank, neatly expressing he picture man's idea that influence of civilization is to corrupt idealistic life of he simple native.
Renee Adoree has an entirely secondary role as a sort of Sadie Thompson and plays it for all it is worth. Donald Crisp is the white trader, handling the heavy role with commendable judgment and restraint. Miss Janis is new to leading roles, picked here perhaps for her voice and because she fitted the role of the native girl by her brunet coloring. She does handsomely by he casting direction, playing a passive role with a good deal of naïve charm, eloquent in spite of is quietness.
Picture on a certified box office subject, neatly handled and
sure fire or the family and neighborhood trade, as well as for
the de luxes.
For more information, see "The Pagan" as our "Feature of the Month"
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