Among film’s distinctive features are a strictly fictional romantic comedy story around the person of David Garrick, 18th-century English actor, a production of superlative workmanship fabricated from old prints of the period, and acting by a fine cast in the flamboyant manner demanded by the script. Release prints wear a sepia tone which enhances the beauty of the visual presentation.
Ernst Vajda has written of an incident in Garrick’s career when the English star (Brian Aherne) was invited by the Comedie Francaise to appear for a guest season at the famous Paris theatre, supported by French players. On his farewell night in London he announces his intentions, which arouse bitter comment from the pit. To appease their wrath, he facetiously explains that some good acting might teach the French a thing or two. These remarks, when conveyed to the players at the Comedie Francaise, arouse animosity, and a plot is conceived to embarrass the visitor.
French actors take over the management of an inn on the Calais-Paris road. Trumped-up quarrels ending in murder, duels and strange happenings take place to frighten the visitor. He sees through the fraud and enters into the scheme as a willing victim. However, a young woman (Olivia de Havilland), who is a stranger to the French actors, arrives at the inn to stay the night.
Tale is not without some very amusing angles. Fact is, it is a farce, should be played as a farce with speed and increasing hilarity. Such, however, is not the case. Whale’s direction is geared to a slow tempo. His romantic passages between Aherne and De Havilland are quite charming, but much too long.
Anton Grot’s art direction calls for special comment. Ernest Haller’s camera work is a series of pastels.