The Great Garrick | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Great Garrick

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Conceivably the most neglected of James Whale's better works, this hilarious period farce (1937, 91 min.) imagines a hoax perpetrated by the Comedie Francaise in order to teach the famous and conceited English actor David Garrick (Brian Aherne) "a lesson in acting." The only problem is, Garrick is in on the gag from the beginning, leading to a variety of comic complications at a country inn. Boisterous and high-spirited, this sport of a movie helps to justify critic Tom Milne's claims that Whale was a kind of premodernist Jean-Luc Godard; rarely have the art and pleasure of acting, demonstrated here in countless varieties of ham, been demonstrated with as much self-reflexive energy (with the possible exception of Sylvia Scarlett), and Whale's enjoyable cast (including Olivia de Havilland, Edward Everett Horton, Melville Cooper, Lionel Atwill, Lana Turner, Marie Wilson, Albert Dekker, Fritz Leiber, and the wonderfully manic Luis Alberni) takes full advantage of the opportunity. Ernest Haller's cinematography creates an intriguing period film noir atmosphere, and Ernest Vajda's script gives the players all the chances to cut up that they need. On the same program, Bob Clampett's Bugs Bunny cartoon What's Cookin', Doc? (1944). LaSalle Theatre, LaSalle Bank, 4901 W. Irving Park, Saturday, October 6, 8:00, 312-904-9442.

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