Lewis B. Collins

Sog.: dalla pièce Carnival di William R. Doyle. Scen.: Winifred Reeve, Matt Taylor. F.: Roy Overbaugh. M.: Charles Craft. Mus.: Sam Perry. Int.: Mary Nolan (Helen Herbert), William Janney (Bobby Spencer), Ralf Harolde (Blackie), Mae Busch (May Roberts), George Irving (signor Spencer), Claire McDowell (signora Spencer). Prod.: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. 35mm. D.: 68’. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Another of Hollywood’s tragic blondes, the hauntingly beautiful Mary Nolan first found fame as a Ziegfeld Girl under the name Imogen ‘Bubbles’ Wilson. But when her married lover, Ziegfeld comedian Frank Tinney, beat her so badly that she landed in the hospital, the subsequent scandal forced her to leave the country. It is said that the gambler Arnold Rothstein financed her trip to Germany, where she changed her name to ‘Imogene Robertson’ and appeared in seventeen films. Returning to the US in 1928 as Mary Nolan, she found work at Universal, then went to MGM where she appeared as Lon Chaney’s brutalized daughter in Tod Browning’s West of Zanzibar and began another abusive relationship with the studio’s notorious fixer, Eddie Mannix. A beating from Mannix led to six months in the hospital and the beginnings of a morphine addition that eventually ended her working life.
In 1930, Nolan returned with Browning to Universal where, now a star, she toplined Outside the Law and a handful of other films, including this memorably sordid melodrama in which she appears as a carnival hoochie coochie dancer who dreams of quitting the trade and marrying a naive young man (William Janney) from a wealthy provincial family. The director, Lewis B. Collins, does not have Browning’s flair for degradation, but the carnival milieu – a constant in so many films of the early Depression – is well observed, and Nolan has a disturbingly distant, resigned quality, as if she were drifting through a story – of hope inevitably disappointed – that she had encountered many times before.
The film’s startling conclusion, alas, anticipates Nolan’s own unhappy fate. After a battle with director Ernst Laemmle on the set of What Men Want, Universal bought out Nolan’s contract and the rest of her career became a sad progression of Poverty Row films, lawsuits, arrests for petty crimes and hospitalizations. An overdose of Seconal ended her life in 1948. She was forty-five years old.



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