Curtain Call (1940)
The Producers Lite
I'm fonder of you than any man I ever met - Helen
Before watching "Curtain Call" I read a few reviews to get some idea of what this forgotten movie is all about and the majority of them mentioned the similarities to "The Producers". In fairness mentioning "The Producers" and "Curtain Call" in the same breathe is a little unfair because whilst they share a similar idea of a director and producer aiming to put on the worst play in history they are leagues apart. "Curtain Call" at just over 60 minutes has the feel of a quickly made comedy which whilst not looking cheap lacks the flourishes of a big budget production. But do you know what, that doesn't matter because for what it is "Curtain Call" is a lot of fun, from the comedy to the performances and it achieves what it sets out to do and that is make you smile.
Stage director Donald Avery (Alan Mowbray) and his producer Geoff Crandall (Donald MacBride) have a crisis on their hand as their star Charlotte Morley (Helen Vinson) wants to quit to go to work for another director. With one more play left on her contract Geoff comes up with a devious plan, to find the worst play in history and force her to make it, ruining her career and giving her no choice but to stay with them. The script they pick comes from novice writer Helen Middleton (Barbara Read) who is idealistic over artistic integrity and is totally oblivious that her poorly written play is being used in Avery, Crandall and Morley's battle.
It is sort of amusing to say this but "Curtain Call" at just 63 minutes could have been shorter, the opening which introduces us to Helen and understanding boyfriend Ted adds little other than to establish that Helen believes she is going to make it as a writer. The real story revolves around the power battle between Avery, Crandall and Morley as Charlotte knows exactly what the director and producer are up to and play them at their own game by insisting they make Helen's play exactly as she wrote it. And as such most of the fun comes from Donald trying to sweep Helen off of her feet in order to trick her in to letting him rewrite it. It isn't great comedy but smile comedy thanks to the daftness of the set up and Alan Mowbray's purposeful over acting when it comes to Donald trying to sweep the much younger Helen off her feet.
In fairness there is not a bad performance in the movie with Barbara Read as Helen Middleton being naively loveable whilst Helen Vinson as actress Charlotte Morley being cunning and over the top. It is as much down to these fun characters as it is the actual writing as to why even now 70 plus years after "Curtain Call" was made that it is still enjoyable.
What this all boils down to is that "Curtain Call" is a fun little movie which at a few minutes over the hour mark is a nice gap filler. It is not great comedy but the daftness of it and the performances will make you smile.
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