New York: 22 June 1927


Los Angeles, June 17.

United Artists production, starring the Duncan Sisters. Based on the stage play by Catherine Chisholm Cushing. Del Lord, director; production consultant, Myron Selznick; continuity, Scott Darling; title by Dudley Early. About 7000 feet. Running time 80 minutes. At Grauman's Egyptian, Los Angeles, June 16, on run at $2 top.
Topsy . . . . . . . . Rosetta Duncan
Eva . . . . . . . . . Vivian Duncan
Simon Legree . . . . Gibson Gowland
Uncle Tom . . . . . . Noble Johnson
Marietta . . . . . . . Marjorie Daw
Aunt Ophelia . . . . Myrtle Ferguson
George Shelby . . . . . . Nils Aster
St. Clare . . . . . . . Henry Victor

  "Topsy and Eva" is going to get a lot of money as long as it is shown on the same bill with the Duncan Sisters, its stars, making personal appearances. That money, however, will come from the de luxe and first run houses. The production is not an expensive one for a special, standing around $300,000.

  In houses where the Duncan girls do not appear it is going to be a different story. The picture is not going to draw heavy grosses and it is not going to please all around, especially with the trade that has reached the stage of adolescence. It will do, however, and nicely for the kiddie matinees.

  Rather a hard time was had in getting this picture finished for a screen showing. The Duncan girls had engineered a deal whereby the picture would be made by First National. Blanche Merrill was called in to write the screen story from the Catherine Chisholm Cushing play. Something happened, and United Artists took it over. Then Lois Weber came along and did something to the story, as she was to direct it. Exit Miss Weber, and Del Lord was signed to direct.

  From what this reporter saw on the screen he did not know, too, whether Del Lord had something to do with the story end. Anyway, it was just as well that no one was given screen credit for the adaptation as possibly no one would have craved it. Scott Darling was credited with the continuity; there again no one can see how that matter was handled and how closely the script was followed.

  "Topsy and Eva" on the screen is nothing but a lot of burlesque gags and situations on the "Uncle Tom" story with a bit of drama and pathos here and there. What drama is in the picture that has any effect on a patron might be credited to D. W. Griffith, who was called in about 10 days before the picture got its initial showing to straighten things out. He no doubt did his best, but is probably not bragging about it.

  Titles are very good in most instances, with a few off color and probably after their Coast premiere will be discarded by orders of censors. These comedy titles are funny, but just a bit too broad for screen safety.

  The story opens with miniature shots being shown on the screen of the stork racing the doctor to the home of the St. Clares and winning out in delivering Eva ahead of him. Two months later a black stork raises havoc by going through rain and lightning and after being driven away from the homes of colored folks, drops Topsy into a barrel. Then the incidents which lead to the slave market where Uncle Tom and Topsy are sold to the St. Clare family.

  In the situation surrounding the sale Topsy has great opportunities for comedy. She gets them over, though in many instances the effects are a bit crude and grotesque. However, an audience will laugh and that is all that is wanted.

  One gag which seems a bit nauseus is where Topsy after biting some of Simon Legree's chewing tobacco gets on the auction block and becomes sick. During her comedy antics she turns away from the crowd and gets rid of the cud. More to this and it is nothing pleasant to witness on the screen.

  After the sale everything goes well at the St. Clare home until Legree comes to foreclose on Christmas eve. He takes Uncle Tom and Topsy away. Brutal to them, Topsy gives him a whaling at every chance. Meantime, Marietta, the niece of Legree, finds he is not on the level, and is locked in a room by him.

  Slaves are brought to the Legree home. Immediately after their arrival Young Shelby appears, having been commissioned to turn over the St. Clare jewels to Legree for Topsy, so that the life of Eva might be saved.

  Topsy meantime raises cain with Legree and makes a getaway. Shelby and Legree start to mix it, with the result that it is a great battle, with Topsy slugging the slaves, trying to help Legree.

  Marietta hands Topsy note to St. Clare, which says the latter is to administer the estate of her dead father. Shelby is unable at first to help the girl to her freedom, and he is knocked cold by Legree and his men. Topsy makes one of those comedy getaways, grabs a saddle from his horse, throws it on a fence, riding down hill, chute-the-chute fashion, on it for long distance and then starts the tramp through a cemetery, &c., to the St. Clare home, with Legree and his bloodhounds on the trail.

  They catch up with her after a time, and she gets rid of Simon by throwing him from a cliff during a battle in the snow. Then Shelby makes the house with his sweetheart, Marietta, and Topsy coming in on the scene shortly afterward. Eva is, of course, on her death bed, but when Topsy comes on the scene, comes to life.

  After lots of clowning at the expense of the others, Topsy gets alongside of Eva on the bed and every one then knows the story of "Topsy and Eva" as the Duncan girls tell it, which in no way should have any effect on the next "Uncle Tom" picture, which Universal will release.

  Rosetta Duncan, as "Topsy," took the whole cake with her comedy. She was all over the screen most of the time, and it was really too bad the story was not a bit more consistent, as she would have done far better. Vivian, as Eva, looked nice, but her role called for little acting.

  Possibly someone will get an idea for a series of short subject pictures on the doings of "Topsy and Eva." If they do the girls will, with proper material, have a cinch of a time in cleaning up through their screen efforts.

  Gibson Gowan did Simon Legree in as brutal a fashion as one would want to see this famous villain. Nils Aster, as George Shelby, looked good, but had little opportunity to show just how good he would measure up on the screen. Noble Johnson, as Uncle Tom, had little chance to shine, either. He played in the meek fashion of the play and had no big moments to get over. Marjorie Daw, as Marietta, was just on and off. Henry Victor, as St. Clare, gave a convincing performance. Myrtle Ferguson did likewise as Ophelia.

  The picture down to around 6,800 feet or so could stand little trimming, due to the nature of the episodic tie-ups. It will have to be played in its present way as cutting would not be beneficial.

  With the Duncan girls remaining with the picture for nine months doing their stage work, it is a cinch that the Joe Schenck organization and the girls will not lose anything. Then when it goes on regular program, its best chances seem to be the kiddies, for it will be able to repeat for several years at special kiddies shows. Ung.