When George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's thinly veiled parody of the acting Barrymores, "The Royal Family," opened in Los Angeles, Fredric March took on the role Otto Kruger had played on Broadway. Paramount studio bosses were so impressed by March's performance that they cast him in the
lead in their film version of the play, THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY (the name was changed to prevent confusion), and he responded by gaining an Oscar nomination and a huge following. Adapters Herman Mankiewicz and Gertrude Purcell wisely jettisoned some extraneous subplots and hammered out a
tight script that George Cukor snappily directed, with assistance from Cyril Gardner.
Henrietta Crosman, matriarch of the famous acting Cavendishes, lives in a fabulous apartment and talks of her ancient theatrical triumphs. When son March arrives, he is not welcomed: by leaving the stage for the movies, he has incurred the wrath of the purists in the family. With March in the
movies, daughter Ina Claire semi-retired, and a second daughter (Brian) unwilling to carry on the family tradition, Crosman accepts an offer to go on tour with a repertory company. The tour proves too much for her and she suffers a heart attack while performing. Her children must now decide
whether to pick up the torch.
Even though March is on screen less than the other leads, his presence is extraordinarily powerful in the film's flashiest role. His impression of John Barrymore is nearly flawless, capturing every gesture, every raised eyebrow, every sneer perfectly. Although the film's humor is tempered by the
drama of Crosman's demise, the screenwriters crafted her death so skillfully that even this heart-tugging scene has funny moments. A must-see for anyone who loves the theater, THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY was edited by Edward Dmytryk, later the director of such films as THE JUGGLER, RAINTREE
COUNTY, and WALK ON THE WILD SIDE.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: When George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's thinly veiled parody of the acting Barrymores, "The Royal Family," opened in Los Angeles, Fredric March took on the role Otto Kruger had played on Broadway. Paramount studio bosses were so impressed by March's perfo… (more)