The Gay Diplomat (1931) starring Genevieve Tobin, Betty Compson, Ivan Lebedeff, Ilka Chase, Purnell Pratt, Colin Campbell directed by Richard Boleslawski Movie Review

The Gay Diplomat (1931)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Genevieve Tobin and Ivan Lebedeff in The Gay Diplomat (1931)

Diplomacy Evades Me

The most entertaining thing about "The Gay Diplomat" is a bit of trivia about lead actor Ivan Lebedeff doctoring the audience preview cards to say they loved it and him when the producers knew it was a disaster. Disaster is probably a bit too strong a word because whilst there is little which is good about "The Gay Diplomat" there is some old fashioned charm which now adds to the amusement. And to be honest "The Gay Diplomat" works well as a movie to understand the transition in the movie scene as only 4 years earlier the first talkie, "The Jazz Singer" had been released and watching this you can see various issues not just with the sound of actor's voices but also the need for good dialogue.

The dashing ladies man Captain Orloff (Ivan Lebedeff) is sent on a top secret mission to Bucharest to use his charms to uncover and capture a female spy. But being the dashing hero he is Orloff has to choose which women to investigate and fend off others who's amorous advances are not so welcome.

Betty Compson and Baroness Alma Corri in The Gay Diplomat (1931)

I won't lie because even when you take into account when it was made "The Gay Diplomat" is not the most interesting or entertaining of movies with a weak idea which would struggle to fill 30 minutes of screen time let alone the 67 minutes that this runs to. Yet rather strangely I couldn't help but think James Bond whilst watching this, not that there is action but we have Orloff as a ladies man who's legendary charm and looks proceeds him giving us an amusing scene where women at a party excuse themselves from their dates to swarm towards him. That sounds as corny as it is and as "The Gay Diplomat" plays out it gets little better with maybe the almost spoof like ending which sees the femme fatale playing dramatic music at the piano as the climax comes. Talking of climax, there is also a surprisingly suggestive scene with a banana which takes you aback and makes you laugh.

But as I said what "The Gay Diplomat" does is actually highlight some issues which came when the movie scene transitioned from silent pictures to talkies. Now the first thing is the quality of the dialogue and in 67 minutes I heard so much banal dialogue it was sleep inducing and when it wasn't banal it was cheesy. But then we also get the actors and their voices and whilst no one had a voice which was bad you could sense that trying to act natural delivering lines did not come easy for some of them none more so than Ivan Lebedeff whose accent makes it even more difficult. In truth if "The Gay Diplomat" had been a silent picture it would have ended up more enjoyable especially with Betty Compson and Genevieve Tobin both being very attractive.

What this all boils down to is that "The Gay Diplomat" is not a good movie and by the sounds of it never was. But it isn't terrible and works well as a look at what issues the movie scene faced when the talkies arrived.