A Capra Back From Oblivion
The Matinee Idol (1928) Is A Happy Silent Save
|Frank Capra with players Bessie Love and Johnnie Walker|
Capra makes his traveling troupe a likeable lot, oblivious to fact theirs is an obsolete art, and easily exploited by passing-through Broadway sharpies that would see them laughed at by city dwellers. The Capra team keeps humor visual, his teachings from Sennett and earlier Roach standing the young director in good stead. Capra was well fitted to gags laced with romance and heart tug, the three playing harmony in The Matinee Idol. Finding this long-lost one raises Capra stock beyond high place it already was. Would have been nice, in fact, for the silent era to last a few more seasons so he could do more modest but effective comedies like this. Bessie Love as actress on a sawdust stage was not unlike parts she'd take when talk came in. Maybe it was her being so utterly right for these that made The Broadway Melody, The Girl In The Show, and Chasing Rainbows come in quick succession for this actress during 1929. The Matinee Idol works also as combo to Buster Keaton's Spite Marriage, both ribbing Civil War mellers done at yokel level. There surely were oodles of such plays, considering how often movies spoofed them.