Around an hour ago or so, I watched Pola Negri’s first talking feature, A Woman Commands. I had wanted to see this for such a time and it had been practically impossible to find.
For some time, I had seen a DVD of two rare Pola films online and it included that one. It arrived two days ago and I ran to my room to play it at once. The copy was very old and the scratchy sound was louder than even the dialogue itself. But that didn’t matter. I was appeased that this incredibly rare (and out-of-print) film was playing on my television.
My heart jumped when I heard Pola speak. She still sounded like an old woman at the age of thirty-five. I thought seeing her next to Basil Rathbone would excite me, but, once I saw them together, I couldn’t feel anything. Basil was such a cold leading man; he never striked me as a romantic sort. Pola put her heart in the performance and I loved her accent, even though it was a bit difficult to understand her. I loved when she kept saying….”some other time!”.
By the time she performed “Paradise” in that memorable cabaret scene, my eyes honestly watered. I couldn’t help but cherish her.
The movie after that seemed to lag. The King who begged for her attentions was annoying. She wanted to be away from him and he just forced her to leave the train! What happens near the end of the film angers me so much because the character of Pola, Maria, had no say in this. The King just forces her to spend time with him, marries her, and then wishes for her to leave? Oh, how I hated that five foot, insistent tyrant.
I really loved the ending and Pola’s reaction. All right, let me say it, without Pola Negri this movie is crap. The whole plot is built around her and, without her talents and voice, this movie would have been tedious.
I should say Pola Negri made better talkies, but I really loved the way she pronounced the English language with that accent. It was far more mystical than Dietrich or Garbo.
It nearly shattered my heart when I saw Pola carrying a baby in the film. She must have remembered how terrible it was when she suffered a miscarriage some years before.
Alas, Pola Negri steals the movie away. She always do so, in my opinion.
Some subtitles could have helped…because I had trouble following the story and understanding what they said.
All in all, I recommend it if one wants to see Pola Negri in a new stage of her cinematic work. This is practically a silent film, as she still has her many expressions I love, but we can hear her.
I’m still looking forward to seeing the rest of her German talkies and also her only French one.
Oh, and here is the cover of the song sheet for the film. I really love the cover.
I love the French version of “Paradise” better…
Who can forget Pola in this film? Her close-ups are beautiful and her voice is a melody…