Early Capra Comedy/Great Documentary.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 12/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE MATINEE IDOL is a minor Frank Capra comedy made shortly after he came to Columbia in 1928. While certainly not top drawer it already deals with many themes which Capra would expand on as his career progressed. Comic bits, sentiment, and the determination of "the little guy" to succeed are well blended in this short but entertaining feature about a top Broadway star and the country acting troupe he brings to New York as a joke until he falls for their leading lady. The performances by Bessie Love and the now forgotten Johnnie Walker are quite good while Lionel Belmore (the Burgomaster in FRANKENSTEIN and subsequent films) steals the show as the troupe leader. Unfortunately the dated nature of some of the material in which the star performs in blackface (to cash in on the success of THE JAZZ SINGER the year before) does not play well with today's audiences. Although it's tastefully done (what Capra film isn't), it remains a product of its time and should be viewed as such.
The real story here is the rediscovery and digital restoration of the film. It is beyond remarkable. The DVD comes with an insert which chronicles the extensive work necessary to bring this film back to life. Whether the film was worth it is debatable, the time and techniques used are not. This will be the future of old movies on video. The added bonus on this disc is the real reason to purchase it. FRANK CAPRA'S AMERICAN DREAM is a superb documentary that no student of film or fan of Capra should be without. An important release for the documentary and the restoration job rather than the film itself. If you are a film lover then it is definitely worth having."
Capra's early years and a fine documentary to boot
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 12/03/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"God Bless the French, for salvaging "The Matinee Idol," a "lost" Frank Capra movie uncovered in the archives of the Cinematheque Francaise, bringing one of Capra's last silent films back into the world of the living. Johnnie Walker stars as a Broadway star who accidentally falls in with an earnest but untalented regional theater company, the Bolivar Players. His big city pals see the show and it leaves them in stitches, so they invite the hapless rubes to a run on Broadway -- as a comedy act, unbeknownst to the actors themselves. The end of the film is rather abrupt: Walker seeks to make amends for the cruel joke, and to patch things up with the gal who runs the troupe, but doesn't go through the type of elaborate manouevers we'd expect to see a few years later, in a classic screwball comedy. (One imagines the script was clipped and the movie kept shorter than Capra might have liked...) Actress Bessie Love is a really interesting onscreen presence, and the scenes in which she and her fellow actors are jeered at by the audiences in New York are absolutely heartbreaking, in the classic Capra style. Not a stunning movie in artistic terms, though invaluable for any fans of Capra to see him in his work in his early years. (The accompanying biographical documentary, narrated by Ron Howard, is also available separately as a VHS tape, without "The Matinee Idol" as a backup feature.)"
Excellent tribute to this century's greatest director.
Samantha Kelley | 02/17/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This video chronicals the life and achievements of the great Frank Capra. It contains rare footage and stills and is narrated by today's most popular directors. I highly recommend this for all Capra fans. END"
A Package Deal
Samantha Kelley | USA | 07/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Matinee Idol is one of those silent film treasures because it was considered lost for such a long time. When it was discovered, it was not complete and had been altered not only for a different language but for time it seems. The restoration on this disk looks beautiful. One would never know by looking at it that it was such a find; there is practically no deterioration and the picture is gorgeous. The only giveaway are the skips in the film which account for five minutes of lost footage. You don't need it to enjoy the film though.
The Matinee Idol is about a Broadway blackface star (Johnnie Walker). He goes to a small town with some big shot friends who decide to waste time by seeing a show. The blackface star winds up in the show and hams it up for his friends in the audience. The show is a trite melodrama taken very seriously by the small town folks in it, especially the female lead (Bessie Love). When she fires the Broadway actor, he retaliates by having his friends take the show to New York so he can make fun of them. As the story often goes, the two begin to fall for each other, but he still goes through with his plan. The Broadway show is bittersweet; it is both funny and sad as the crowd laughs like hyenas but the players realize the extent of their talents.
Also included on this disk is a wonderful documentary about Frank Capra, the director of the film. It covers the many famous Capra films as well as some that are lesser known, his relationships with stars like Harry Langdon and Barbara Stanwyck, and his life outside of Hollywood. There are interviews with his sons and other directors like Martin Scorcese and actors like Peter Falk and Fay Wray. The opening is beautiful and makes one feel that the film is important. It ends by giving the viewer a new perspective on Capra's messages and moods in his work to help one appreciate it more."