The Guardsman (1931)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Farce  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Director Sidney Franklin was an expert at transposing plays to the screen in smooth, seamless fashion. He was, thus, the ideal man to direct this adaptation of Ferenc Molnar's play about backstage rivalry. He deliberately ignored everything he knew to emphasize the artifice of the opening scene, a depiction of a stage performance of Maxwell Anderson's drama Elizabeth the Queen; but once the backstage section of the story kicks in, Franklin's skills kick in on all cylinders, in a lively, caustically witty comedic romance, and the movie never slows down from there across its brisk 89-minute running time. Modern viewers looking at The Guardsman will think they're looking at a run-through for the opening scenes of Kiss Me Kate, and they wouldn't be far wrong -- Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne and their backstage bickering were the basis for the Fred Graham and Lili Vanessi characters in the musical. The two are extremely engaging here, and their interplay, along with Franklin's brisk treatment of the visual elements, helps makes this one of the more entertaining films of its era. There would be still better and more entertaining movies in this vein to come, including It's Love I'm After and the screen version of Kiss Me Kate, but as a pioneering effort with a unique cast, The Guardsman has lost little of its luster across 75-plus years.