Monday, August 27, 2012

The Match King

1932, US, directed by William Keighley and Howard Bretherton

While Warren William had plenty of practice playing the cad, his role on this occasion is the concentrated essence of the type -- absolutely no-one is safe here, and the Ponzi schemes of the titular king are as much personal as financial, with everyone hoping for a return that can never possibly materialize. William plays a version of the real-life "match king" Ivar Krueger, and his business schemes are outlined with the characteristic Warner Brothers energy that infused everything from gangster bloodletting to social climbing with breakneck speed. Indeed, at times the film almost trips over itself in the early going, so much so that William repeats the same catchphrase four times in a few minutes, as though the filmmakers have forgotten he's just use the line. Things slow down a bit, not especially to the film's benefit, when William stumbles on the charms of the lovely Lili Damita -- as much as his rise to prominence convinces, blaming his downfall at least partly on the distractions of a beautiful woman fails to ring true given his utter ruthlessness on all other occasions.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States