Sunday, 30 October 2011

Picture of the day: what difference whether girl or man?

 Greta Garbo and Nils Asther in The Single Standard, 1929. 

Asther plays a rich artist with a yacht. Garbo is a young socialite who resolves to reject hypocritical and out of date moral standards (The Single Standard) and so takes Asther as her lover and sails with him through tropical seas.


Saturday, 29 October 2011

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Crime Doctor (1934)

Nils Asther in The Crime Doctor, 1934
Nils Asther in court as his character is accused of murder

In The Crime Doctor, Asther plays the clandestine lover of Karen Morley whose husband, criminologist Otto Kruger, has revenge on their affair by designing the perfect murder so that Asther is implicated.

May 11, 1934 

In the new picture at the Rialto, the perfect crime is engineered with such skill and imagination by a criminologist [Otto Kruger], who is also a jealous husband, that it becomes a fascinating thing to watch. Dan Gifford, long the scourge of careless murderers, forges each link in the homicide with such cold and deadly precision that his wife's lover [Nils Asther] is inescapably trapped in a circumstantial case. Even the victim seems to doubt his own innocence, so damning is the evidence against him. Unhappily for the cause of the perfect murder, Gifford finally confesses and shoots himself when he realizes the depth of his wife's affection for the doomed man.

Otto Kruger, who has not been so fortunate in his previous encounters with the cinema, helps "The Crime Doctor" measurably with the venomously exciting performance that he provides as the assassin. Asking no quarter from his audience by diluting the sheer reptilian quality of his behavior with sympathetic undertones, he provides a murderer who is admirably calm, cruel and intelligent.

Gifford plans the crime—contradicting his own theory that a clueless murder is impossible—when his wife [Karen Morley] informs him that she loves Eric Anderson, an author. He plants a woman in an adjoining apartment, ostensibly to gather evidence of his wife's infidelity. The woman tries to blackmail the author, as Gifford knows she will, and the criminologist graciously offers to help the man he hates. When, finally, he puts two bullets into the woman with the author's gun, he has arranged the plot so neatly that on every point of motivation, clue and evidence Anderson seems to be the killer.

When it is all over and the audience is properly lost in admiration and excitement, it turns out that the whole story is just something the criminologist has written—a piece of detective fiction. That is an unfortunate epilogue. It seems such a shame to excuse a crime so expertly managed. The players who support Mr. Kruger are entirely effective. Karen Morley is the wife, Nils Asther the lover and William Frawley a sleuth who solves the murder.

Picture of the day: jealous bellhop

 Nils Asther, Jetta Goudal and Marion Davies in The Cardboard Lover, 1928

Friday, 21 October 2011

Picture of the day: subtle, powerful attraction

 Greta Garbo, Nils Asther, Wild Orchids, 1929
Caption: "She responded to the subtle, powerful attraction of the Prince"

So much to enjoy here.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Forced Landing (1941)

Nils Asther and Eva Gabor in Forced Landing, 1941
From 1941-3, Nils Asther acted in a total of three war dramas for Pine-Thomas Productions, all with Richard Arlen as the hero and Asther doing service as chief villain, marked from the start by his suave manners and thick European accent.

Forced Landing, 1941, was the first of these films. Asther played Colonel Jan Golas, a Pacific islands dictator vying with Richard Arlen for the affections of the beautiful Eva Gabor (in her first US picture). Ever treacherous, Asther decides that the best way to clear a path for himself is by sending Arlen on a suicide mission.

In subsequent films, Asther was to repeat his role of untrustworthy foreigner.

In Flying Blind, 1941, he became Erik Karolek, a spy attempting to hijack Arlen's honeymooner charter plane after stealing military secrets. Later, in Submarine Alert, 1943, Asther was Dr Huneker, locking Arlen in a room with toxic gas for discovering his secret Nazi identity.

Night Monster (House of Mystery) 1942

 In this B-picture horror, Nils Asther plays Agor Singh, a mystic who is summoned along with other specialists to the creepy mansion of a rich paraplegic. Also present are Bela Lugosi (the stiff butler) Lief Erikson (an over-sexed chauffeur) Irene Hervey (a psychologist) and Lionel Atwill (as a sleazy doctor).

Police are investigating a series of murders in the neighbouring countryside, and the scares, shadows and sudden deaths soon begin to pile up inside the old house.

The suave mystic explains his methods:
“A little knowledge of the occult is dangerous. Unless it’s used for good, disaster will follow its way, that is cosmic law.”  
Agor Singh (Asther) summons a skeleton 
using his amazing power of 'cosmic substance control'

Watch Agor Singh (Nils Asther) demonstrating his powers in this clip

Bela Lugosi, Lief Erikson, Nils Asther, Irene Hervey, Don Porter,
Ralph Morgan in wheelchair

Trailer for Night Monster, 1942

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Blue Danube (Honor Above All) 1928

Nils Asther, promotional card for Honor Above All (The Blue Danube), 1928

In this silent romantic melodrama, Asther plays Erich von Statzen, a young Hungarian baron who is called away to WWI on the eve of his wedding day to Marguerite (Leatrice Joy). Marguerite is then left alone to fend off the lies peddled by Ludwig, an elderly violin maker, who tries to convince her that the baron has been unfaithful and she should marry him instead.

Cecil B D Mille was executive producer and a copy of this film is kept in the Library of Congress.

Leatrice Joy and Nils Asther
Ludwig (Joseph Schildkraut) has eyes for tavern girl Marguerite (Leatrice Joy)

April 30, 1928

'BLUE DANUBE' IS SHOWN; Film at the Strand Employs Girl and-Hunchback Theme.

This picture is another reiteration of the sentimental Marguerite theme, made a bit more pleasant than most by the actors in the three leading rôles.

Like its sisters, which are legion, the plot concerns itself with Marguerite, the daughter of an innkeeper, the baron of the district and the village hunchback. The baron and the girl fall in love while the orchestra plays "The Blue Danube" Waltz, but before they can be married the young man departs for war. He tries to send messages back by Ludwig, the hunchback, but they never arrive. An uncle of the baron complicates matters by forcing Marguerite to marry Ludwig. It ends cheerfully, with the hunchback stabbing himself, and the girl and her baron falling into each other's arms.

Miss Joy has the chief rôle and manages to instill a manner into the threadbare character which makes it not only graceful but intelligent. Her baron, Mr. Asther, ranges quite well from tenderness to bravery without losing his stride in the process.

About Mr. Schildkraut, in the difficult part of Ludwig the hunchback, there is something of Germanic symbolism. Ludwig is by trade a violin maker and as he sits and meditates on his love and on his wrongs, the knife and small hammer are never idle. His eyes stare fitfully, changing from sorrow to the glare of intense hatred.

There are in the picture certain bits of good direction—things fading out and merging into others of similar nature. Many ideas are suggested lightly rather than being heavily painted in the "stop-go" manner.

Promotional sheet music for the film 

Poster Tagline: "DECEIVED by those she trusted, she became the spite-bride of the creature she loathed. Don't fail to see this, the most enthralling love romance ever screened."