The Magic Flame (1927)
1st Academy Awards 1929
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Cinematography (George Barnes).
Only five out of the original eleven reels of The Magic Flame remain, and it is hard to tell precisely where they might be. It is rumored that they are at the International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House. Here follows an original review by Mordaunt Hall, published September 19, 1927, in the New York Times:
An ingeniously contrived and magnificently photographed production, with the contrasting backgrounds of life under a circus tent and that in the palace of a mythical kingdom, has been wrought by Henry King out of Rudolph Lother’s novel, “King Harlequin,” which for reasons best known to Samuel Goldwyn, the producer, comes to the Rialto Theatre screen as “The Magic Flame.” In this film it falls to Ronald Colman‘s lot to impersonate both a sympathetic clown and a rascally prince, while Vilma Banky, the lovely Hungarian actress, plays the part of a stellar trapeze performer with the wagon show; she is adored by the humble follower of Grimaldi and she also attracts the vagrant eye of the heir to Illyria’s throne.
Mr. King has pictured the various incidents of this story in an imaginative fashion and his introduction of the Clown, Tito, is excellent. At first the features of Roland Colman are hidden under putty and greasepaint, but this Clown sits at a mirror and gradually wipes off the disguise until the well-known physiognomy of the popular player is revealed.
It is, of course, a highly romantic affair, but the scenes in the circus are brilliantly filmed. After an exciting happening, Mr. King turns his camera to the unperturbed countenance of the circus band leader. This director has also accomplished remarkable effects by soft shadows and the close-ups of both Mr. Colman and Miss Banky fit in nicely with the action of the narrative.
The comedy in the circus scenes is very well done, for although some of the tricks are ancient they belong to this type of show. There is the strong man who awes the audience with his lifting of prodigious weights and then there is the clown and his absurdities.
Tito and the prince resemble each other like the proverbial two peas. The Prince’s father dies, and after the heir apparent, like Humpty Dumpty, is beyond picking up by all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, Tito finds himself bound to accompany Illyria’s noblemen to the royal palace or be arrested for the murder of the Prince. The beautiful trapeze artist suspects foul play and as she hears that the Prince is safe she believes that Tito has been slain. Therefore with a pistol concealed in a bouquet of flowers, she goes forth to put a bullet through the new King.
Throughout this good-natured and interesting romance there are some joyous situations. At first one is impelled to regret Mr. King’s permitting the trapeze artist to leap out of a window, but when she happily saves herself by clinging to a tree one realizes that it is her circus stunts that serve her in good stead.
The way in which Tito gets away from the palace is artfully arranged, for the Chancellor, who might have killed Tito (as the King), discovers that it is unnecessary. When the Chancellor informs the clown that he (Tito) must be apprehended for the slaying of the King Tito cooly tells that official that he will have a hard time proving that he (Tito) is not the King.
Mr. Colman fills the dual rôle with much artistry. His mustache is longer and neatly curled as the Prince. This Prince also wears a monocle. The clown has put a faint suggestion of a mustache and his face does not appear to be as well nourished as that of the Prince.
Miss Banky is attractive enough as the circus performer, but after the Chancellor has bought her one of Illyria’s latest creations, she is stunning. Miss Banky also delivers a competent performance. Gustav von Seyffertitz is splendid as the Chancellor.
THE MAGIC FLAME, with Ronald Colman, Vilma Banky, Augustino Borgato, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Harvey Clarke, Shirley Palmer, George Davis, Andre Cheron and Vadim Uraneff, adapted from Rudolph Lothar‘s novel, “King Harlequin,” directed by Henry King; “Memories,” a technicolor novelty; Miriam Lax, soprano. At the Rlalto Theatre.
Sources: NY Times, IMDB, A Certain Cinema