Jul 9, 2014

George Arliss, The Green Goddess


The Green Goddess was one of the toughest films for me to find and also one of the dullest to watch. This is a film that perfectly embodies everything that I hate about early Hollywood flicks--too stagey, too slowly paced, too awkwardly shot...and its main attraction is an wooden-acting Englishman decked out in bronzer to inspire the look of a South Asian...a South Asian who happens to have a perfect English accent. In fact, it would seem as though Arliss' Raja is exactly the same as Arliss' Disraeli except with a darker tan and a drag queen's wardrobe. But even still, Arliss looks and feels incredibly disengaged throughout most of The Green Goddess, much more so than in Disraeli. He has a peculiar speaking quality to him in this film where he sort of cocks his head back and sleepily recites his lines, as if he has no desire to be there. Thus, the sole character who's responsible for driving the plot and is supposed to be the most interesting ends up being boring. Such an exotic and flamboyant man ought to have some zeal and vigor, and yet I saw none in Arliss whatsoever, not a slightest spark indicative of a thespian with significant acting talent. What's worse is that I never felt that Arliss was as evil a villain as the Raja is supposed to be (or at least as evil as online synopses of the play would suggest), and if you can't successfully deliver the basic qualities of your character then what's the point? Arliss here is lethargic, lackluster, and ultimately not worth remembering in the least.

*But hey, despite my feelings on this performance, I wouldn't have been able to view The Green Goddess to begin with if it weren't for the help of GM. So thank you again for kindly assisting with my completist tendencies, you are an angel! 


  1. Sad that it's not a great surprise, it seems that he isn't a good actor in general.
    And thanks for the mention!

  2. The completest in me is glad to have finally seen this movie. Okay, now that I've taken care of the positive comments let me just say that this is not much of a film and its lead performance is even less effective. I won't take shots at it for being what it is - an early sound film - because all films are beholden to the technical constraints of their eras. However, the source material here is a flimsy play that translates poorly to film, and George Arliss' performance is stagy emptiness at its worst.

    Aside from the fact that he's portraying the first Asian ruler with a British accent/bearing on film, he brings nothing out of the ordinary to the role. Arliss has two characteristics as the ruler, smug and sinister, and he differentiates not one whit from them throughout. What's worse is that he's barely more than a line reciter here. There's no connection at all to what he's saying in his windy speeches, so voice and expression do little for characterization. When my mind wanders during a performance, I've usually stopped listening because words don't connect to honest emotion. That's Acting 101, not Method or Shakespearean, just basic. That Arliss, who was highly regarded in his time, gets this so wrong is surprising to me but, changing times considered, this is pedestrian work no matter what the era.