I Am Suzanne (1933)

Film Review

I AM SUZANNE

Release Date: 25 December, 1933

Studio: Fox Film Corporation

Director: Rowland V. Lee

Starring: Gene Raymond, Lilian Harvey, Leslie Banks

Special Notes: TCM Classic Film Festival, 2013

This film was shown as part of the Discoveries category and featured guest Katie Trainor, archivist at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY.

Synopsis

Harvey, a dancer, is dominated by her manager, Banks. Raymond, a puppeteer at a small theater, admires her charm, her beauty and her dancing. Banks, however, tells Raymond that he controls Harvey. After an accident cripples her leg and prevents her from dancing, Banks rejects her and trains a new dancer. Raymond has made a puppet representing her, and Harvey becomes one of the puppeteers. A rigorous exercise routine repairs her leg and allows Harvey to dance again. She must choose between Banks, who has reasserted his control, and Raymond, who loves her.

Discussion

Lillian Harvey came to Fox Films from Europe where she had made several successful musicals. Multilingual, she acted in German, French, and English versions of some of these films. Harvey made only four films for Fox before returning to Germany. In the late 1930s she moved to France where, in 1940 at age 34, she made her final film. She spent the war years in Los Angeles but never made another movie. Harvey's Fox films are little known. A poor quality print of I Am Suzanne had been in circulation before MoMA preserved the film and produced a new, high quality, print. The film displays Harvey's beauty and charm. Her acting is appealing and poised. Her dancing is more athletic than elegant and her singing is pleasant, if not particularly distinctive. Fox hired the Yale Puppeteers to design, build, and manipulate the puppets. The core trio of puppeteers met at the University of Michigan and formed a partnership in 1923. After mostly touring in their early years, the Yale Puppeteers established Turnabout Theater in Los Angeles, where they staged adult satirical musicals using puppets and live performers from 1941 to 1960.