Although The Royal Family of Broadway snips away a bit too much of the George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber play from which it was derived, there is very little else about the enterprise about which to complain. Even with the cutting, more than enough of the original remains, and the additions that scenarists Herman Mankiewicz and Gertrude Purcell have added are perfectly in tune with the play. There are more than enough laughs, provoked both by genuine wit and by skillful set-up, and the plot, though familiar now, keeps things moving quite peppily. Certainly director George Cukor deserves a good share of credit for that smart pacing, as well as for blending the comedic and dramatic elements of the piece together so seamlessly. It's the cast, however, and particularly Fredric March, that makes Family something truly special. Henrietta Crosman is delightfully matriarchal and Ina Claire is a stitch, but it's March who steals the show. Chewing the scenery shamelessly and doing a wickedly spot-on John Barrymore take-off, March dominates the film, even though his part is the smallest of the leads. Though March was one of the screen's finest dramatic actors, his comedic roles were rarely as rewarding as this -- perhaps because they didn't allow him to come out with both guns blazing as this one does. Family is a hilarious backstage fable that doesn't disappoint.
by Craig Butler review