Jul 31, 2014

Fredric March, The Royal Family of Broadway


Fredric March’s performance in The Royal Family of Broadway is one so loud and so brazen in its theatricality—it’s the kind that would typically be considered too histrionic or, for lack of a better word, bad, if it were in a picture that actually took itself seriously. But the film is a comedy based on the play that mocks the great Barrymore family, with March’s performance a refreshing and precise parody of said family’s famed son John...that is what separates March’s work from bad and brilliant. One couldn’t fully appreciate the performance without first being at least a little familiar with the work of John Barrymore—watch Barrymore act in Twentieth Century or Romeo and Juliet and you’ll find that March is incredibly on point here in terms of mannerisms, gestures, and tics. The Royal Family of Broadway’s story is interesting enough, though as a film it’s a bit stagnant and not very cinematic. However, each time March enters a scene he brings with him a rousing jolt of energy that makes everything worth watching. It’s a criminally small part, a shame as the film spends too much time focusing on considerably less charismatic and less interesting actors, but as the New York Times succinctly pointed out, this is a part that gives “the greatest opportunity for quick thinking, agility, and splendid comedy.” And that's really what it is, a purely comedic, fun, and hyper piece of work that's sure to perk you up, kind of like caffeine. I had a perma-smile I couldn’t get rid of when March first appears, decked out in a dramatic fur coat, shouting his lines in an upper register, cocking his brow and posing with an utmost exaggeration. Tony Cavendish is naturally tough to keep your eyes off of because he's all sorts of cuckoo—loud and abrasive, short-tempered, childish, and perhaps a tiny bit insane, you're forced to look at him and watch in the very same way you'd do the same when Barrymore hams it up in his films. What adds to the performance is the fact that March has great comedic timing and an assured confidence that bodes well with the fiery ridiculousness of Tony. Simply put, this is a performance that’s a whole lot of fun, one that jump-started March’s relationship with Oscar and one that also shows his adept skill at tackling different types of genres with zeal.

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