A Woman Commands

  • 1932
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

Sultry silent screen vamp Negri's first talking picture was her final film in the U.S. until her brief cameo reappearance in 1943 in HI DIDDLE DIDDLE. This lavish period production has Negri as a beautiful cabaret performer who wins the heart of a Balkan king (Young) while simultaneously bringing officer Rathbone nearly to ruin with her excessive demands...read more

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Sultry silent screen vamp Negri's first talking picture was her final film in the U.S. until her brief cameo reappearance in 1943 in HI DIDDLE DIDDLE. This lavish period production has Negri as a beautiful cabaret performer who wins the heart of a Balkan king (Young) while simultaneously

bringing officer Rathbone nearly to ruin with her excessive demands for costly gifts. Finally forced to accept an assignment at a distant outpost, Rathbone temporarily disappears from Negri's life; she weds carefree king Young. The marriage galvanizes his enemies into action, and Young is killed

by a bomb. Negri, newly selfless and nonmercenary, reunites with Rathbone. The studio spared no expense in this production which, executives hoped, would make a talking star of a valuable silent-screen property. The film was well chosen; Negri's heavy Russian accent and rather guttural contralto

delivery were assets rather than liabilities in this Balkan-based picture. Promotional efforts were substantial; Negri personally attended the New York City premiere, as did flashy mayor Jimmy Walker. The gala opening was so well attended that several notable cinema lights of the time--including

Edmund Lowe and Lilyan Tashman--were forced to sit in gallery seats with the plebians. Director Stein had worked with Negri before; he had directed one of her first silents in Berlin. Laurence Olivier had originally been cast in Rathbone's role as the impecunious young captain, but an illness

forced the studio to replace him. Rathbone, cast against type, was an unfortunate choice; his wooden performance was one of his worst. Despite all efforts, the picture lost more than a quarter of a million dollars for the studio. Negri, held to be largely responsible, never worked for RKO again;

the executives elected to cut their losses. Their decision was probably ill-advised, since Negri's performance was effective, including her husky rendition of a cabaret song. The fault lay with the script, which vacillated wildly between lighthearted farce and heavy tragedy, a mix that was

difficult for audiences to accept.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Sultry silent screen vamp Negri's first talking picture was her final film in the U.S. until her brief cameo reappearance in 1943 in HI DIDDLE DIDDLE. This lavish period production has Negri as a beautiful cabaret performer who wins the heart of a Balkan k… (more)

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