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Man and the Moment

Warner Bros. // Unrated // April 12, 2016
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted May 12, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

One of the reasons I love The Warner Archives, a MOD program that releases films that WB owns the rights to, is that they can put out movies that will only appeal to a small, niche audience. Case in point: The Man and the Moment. This 1929 film stars two actors who were once huge in Hollywood but now forgotten, Billie Dove and Rod La Rocque. It was considered lost until a print turned up in a European film archive and last year this partial talkie was matched up with the original Vitaphone discs and restored. Now Warner Archives have released it to home video so fans of early cinema can see it for themselves.

This romantic comedy centers around Michael (Rod La Rocque), a very rich playboy who has been having an affair with the married Viola (Gwen Lee). She's planning to divorce her husband and marry Michel for his money, and if she can't sweet-talk him to the altar, she'll blackmail him with the love letters that he wrote to her. The scandal will certainly ruin his reputation.

Michael isn't sure what to do when Viola springs the letters on him, until he meets an attractive aviatrix, Joan (Billie Dove, who flew planes in real life). She confides that she has her share of problems too. Her guardian disapproves of her flying and is going to send her back to her family in... *gasp* Iowa! It's so boring there that she just couldn't stand it.

That's when Michael comes up with a plan: The two of them will get married! Just in name, of course, but that way Michael can't be forced to marry Viola and Joan won't have to go back to Iowa. Joan is taken aback until Michel clarifies to the lass that 'you would never have to... ummm.... Well you just wouldn't, you know." With that assurance she agrees.

They get a minister and hightail it to Michel's boat where the two are married. Joan is going to leave, but Michel persuades her to have dinner with him on the yacht. Over the course of the meal, Michel becomes entranced with the plucky young girl that he's just married. With the ocean breeze and the band playing, Joan finds herself attracted to the very handsome and very rich man she's with. They kiss, and then it fades to black.

The next morning Michael wakes up in his bed to discover Joan's wedding ring on the pillow next to him and her clothes on the floor. She's decided to swim ashore rather than face Michael again since he broke his promise. Once on the beach, Viola finds the distraught girl and, after her guardian kicks her out of his home because she was out all night, offers her a place to stay. Unaware of the marriage, Viola plans to poison Joan against Michael so she can have him, and his money, for herself.

A very risqué film when it was made before the Hays Code, it plays as a light drama today. It's interesting to see how they deal with sex without ever mentioning the word (or act) directly, but the meaning certainly comes across. The way the idle rich were portrayed, in these days before the stock market crash that brought on the depression is curious too. At the beginning of the film Michael is playing "polo boat" which is apparently like the version with horses, but it's played with a large buoyant ball on the water with girls mounted on small speed boats which the men pilot. The party that is thrown near the end of the film is unique too. It features underwater acrobatics performed by women in large pools with glass walls so that the revelers can watch them as they dance.

The acting was decent, but being an early sound film it's clear that the cast and crew were learning as they went. Billie Dove does a good job with her dialog, but it's clear that Rod La Rocque isn't used to having to memorize lines. It looks like he's having to concentrate to say the right lines and is working on saying them clearly. This gives his performance a wooden feel when you can hear him talk that isn't present when his lines are presented in title cards.

This is a part-talking film. While there is music and sound effects for the whole film, there are only two reals that have spoken lines. The rest of the time intertitle cards give the dialog. At least that's the way it was supposed to have been presented. The version of the film that was discovered was edited to be a silent movie so that theaters that were not rigged for sound could still play it. That means that intertitle cards are present through the whole film, even when there's a synchronized soundtrack for the dialog. They could not delete those cards because otherwise the timing of the sound would be off. It's a small price to pay for a previously lost film.

The DVD:

This movie arrives on a DVD-R in an attractive keepcase with cover art.


The mono audio comes from the original Viatphone discs and sounds nice, given the origin. There's not a lot of dynamic range, and both the dialog and music sound a bit tinny with little in the way of low range frequencies, but it's never hard on the ears.


The full frame black-and-white image is much better than I was expecting. It's a little soft and there's a fair amount of grain, but the contrast is very good and the picture is generally clean and clear. Nothing to worry about on the video front.


As with many WA releases, there are no extras.

Final Thoughts:

A nice light drama starring a pair of silent actors who were once big stars but are now largely forgotten, this is an interesting look back to the early days of sound pictures and well worth picking up. It gets a strong recommendation.        
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