Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Don Juan" Lives Again in Old Film

Cleveland Press November 11, 1964

"Don Juan" opened in 1926. I missed it. I missed everything that year.

The theater at which it is playing opened about a year later. Within a few years it -- like the old movie -- died but was resurrected occasionally.

Appropriately enough both are enjoying a rebirth, though neither is quite the same.

The theater is the old Moreland at E. 119th St. and Buckeye Rd. Its rebirth really began several months back when a group took it over for stage musicals and called it the Players' Theater. The seats in back were removed, a terrace was constructed, tables and chairs were set out and a dinner theater was created.

This operation never quite made it. A few weeks ago Jim Moir, producer of "Up for Grabs," and Jack Brooks, New York producer and director, took it over, finished the refurbishing job and reopened the place under the name of Playbill-East with a policy of showing movie classics and eventually stage musicals.

AFTER A COUPLE of weeks of old movies, the theater this week is going into its announced policy of presenting the truly vintage films.

Which gets us back to "Don Juan."

There's an obvious appeal in this for both the cinematic buff and the nostalgic old-timer who wishes to shed a tear or two for the good old days.

If you are not too emotionally wrapped up in your nostalgia you may even find that the movie is loaded with laughs. It wasn't intended to be, but that's the way it looks today. If it had been made this year it would be acclaimed as a superb example of the art of spoofing romantic melodramas.

THIS IS LOADED with gestures, exaggerated looks florid lines, wild plotting and grand heroics. There's the wonderfully heroic and quite athletic John Barrymore, pausing every now and then to let everyone get a good look at his profile.

Historically the movie is important because it was the first to use a complete prerecorded music score and sound effects.

Movie historians have pointed out that, at the time, it aroused only mild interest. Recorded musical accompaniment wasn't terribly exciting for audiences accustomed to hearing large orchestras performing with their pictures.

The score, played by the New York Philharmonic, is quite good, stands up well even now.

There's something to be said for the printed narrative that those films used. You couldn't set both scene and mood much better than with this little description: "Don Juan's home -- where innocence may enter but never depart.

THE MOVIES have gone a long way in portraying Iechers. Barrymore is a plain old lecherous lecher. Today we have Jack Lemmon -- a lecher with the face of a Boy Scout.

"Don Juan" plays through tomorrow evening. Friday, Saturday and Sunday the theater offers a double feature -- "Son of the Sheik" with Rudolph Valentino, and "The Sheik Steps Out" with Ramon Novarro.

"Don Juan" is accompanied by the trailer for "The Jazz Singer." This has a tuxedoed announcer delivering a lengthy speech about the wonders about to unfold when Al Jolson sings in his new picture. There are equally long scenes with Jolson emoting wordlessly. It goes on and on.

They just don't make trailers like that any more.