The Great GabboMusical
Box Office: $0.0M
PRINCIPAL CASTErich von Stroheim, Betty Compson, Don Douglas, Marjorie King, Helen Kane
Inspired by the dark short story "The Rival Dummy" by Ben Hecht, this uncanny 1928 drama stars Erich Von Stroheim (Hollywood's "The Man You Love To Hate") as the cruel egotistical ventriloquist, The Great Gabbo. Mary (Betty Compson), Gabbo's beautiful assistant, loves Gabbo and sees goodness within him, despite the torrent of abuse that he heaps upon her. Incapable of expressing any human warmth except through Otto, his wooden dummy, Gabbo drives Mary away. Gabbo's career surges upward bringing him fame and fortune as a Broadway headliner while his descent into insanity accelerates along with his twisted belief that Otto, his only companion, is truly alive. Mary reappears, but when Gabbo realizes that she isn't returning to be his lover, he becomes totally unhinged in a final spectacular burst of self-destructive madness.
Directed by James Cruze, famous for 1929's epic western The Covered Wagon, the film alternates the melodrama with musical numbers of the late Vaudeville era. Erich Von Stroheim's intense performance as Gabbo is the highlight of the picture, his first talkie. Born in Austria and coming to the United States in 1909, he began as a bit player working for D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks, but his real interest was directing. As a director, his debut film Blind Husbands (1919) met with acclaim, but his film Queen Kelly (1928) starring Gloria Swanson, was shut down in mid-production for going over budget. He was brought into the production of The Great Gabbo for his marquee value. Von Stroheim continued to act for the rest of his life, forever typecast as a monocled, arrogant villain. In a strange twist paralleling his life, Von Stroheim's last performance was as Max Von Mayerling, the failed Hollywood director, to Swanson's Norma Desmond, in Sunset Boulevard (1950), bringing him his only Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.