IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0020677
Submitted by Charles O'Brien on 2006-07-24
Charles O'Brien's comment:
An interesting Paramount feature made in 1929 and released in January 1930. William Powell is impressive as Gardoni, an amoral, self-tormented comic, who steals first the gags and then the girlfriend of his partner Hap (Hal Skelly). The film exhibits a mix of sound and silent technique--an example of the latter being the expository titles that periodically punctuate the action to provide an editorial commentary of sorts on the evolution in moral status of the character Hap. Also, as in other Paramount films of the time, Behind the Mask includes a fair amount of foreign speech--in this case, French and Italian. Hal Skelly, who plays Hap, sings three songs in the course of the film. 0.00: "New Orleans--a Performer" (title); Hap rides bicycle wearing grotesque clown makeup, dissolve to a graphic match of Hap straightening his tie, preparing to enter the night-owl diner; Hap sits at diner counter, chatting with waitress Marie (Fay Wray), his girlfriend (her co-worker Pierre speaks French); Hap exits the diner, and walks down the street to find a man, despondent, leaning against lamp post; Hap invites the man to Hap's apartment; 6.45: the man identifies himself as Gardoni, the son of Europe's greatest comic, fallen on hard times in the U.S., where audiences are too unsophisticated to grasp his comedic gifts; Gardoni and Hap decide to form an act together; 8.40: Hap in clown makeup does his bicycle act, and then sings My Pal"; 13.20: "A Month Later, in Baton Rouge--A Failure" (title); the duo act flops, and Gardoni disappears, and then [...] turns up in a successful show, based on gags "borrowed" from Hap; Gardoni invites Hap to tour with him as the supporting player, i.e., the "feeder"; Marie and Gardoni meet through Hap and it turns out that Marie can speak a bit of Italian; 28.00: Hap falls asleep at the table as Gardoni romances Marie; Hap goes to the diner to look for Marie and encounters Pierre, who answers his questions in French ("Is Marie here?" --"Pas encore"); Hap waits on tables at the diner; 31.00: Gardoni shows up at the diner with Marie to announce that he and Marie are getting married!; "Two Years Later in New York--A Feeder" (title); split-screen montage, with show-music accompaniment; after the show Gardoni tells Marie to go home, and that he must stay to conduct business; Gardoni's vamp girlfriend Kitty (Kay Francis--she played a similar role in the Marx Brothers' Cocoanuts) arrives; Gardoni and Kitty at a table in a bar; Marie and Gardoni at home; Gardoni dashes off to the recording studio just as Hap arrives; Marie confesses to Hap that she is unhappy now with Gardoni; Hap plays the piano and sings (thirty seconds); Hap and Gardoni; Gardoni at the gaming table with Kitty, who ends up telling Gardoni that she is through with him, and that she is leaving for London with Boris; 51.40: show music begins offscreen, as Hap waits for Gardoni to begin their act; Hap is informed that Gardoni is dead (what is the name of the song that plays during this scene?); newspaper announces "Gardoni commits suicide," as Hap arrives to speak with Marie; 55.00: "A Month Later--A Nobody" (title); Hap is told that he can't get bookings as a solo artist; Hap is told that Marie is leaving; Marie discovers a letter from Kitty, who demands that Gardoni repay his gambling debts; Hal lies and says the debts were really his rather than Gardoni's; Hap's manager shows up and suggests to Marie that Hap loves her, and is lying to protect Gardoni's memory; 65.25: "In Dayton--A Man" (title); Hap performs his clown routine, and sings "Never Say Die," with cutaway to an adoring Marie in the crowd.