Champagne (1928)- reviewed by George

Alfred Hitchcock’s 8th film is a romantic comedy with plenty of deception on the part of the four principals in order to get their own way. The four major characters are a rich father, his bright and somewhat hyper daughter, and her two beaus, one of whom is approved by the father. The other guy dad just doesn’t like.
In the film they are called The Girl (Betty Balfour), The Boy (Jean Bradin), The Man (Theo Von Alten), and The Father (Gordon Harker).
The father is going through the newspapers, smoking angrily, and scattering the papers furiously as soon as they are scanned. One headline: Cupid Takes a Leaf from Lindy’s Daughter, (subhead): Wall Street Mogul Again Defied by Headstrong Heiress Daughter, (sub-subhead): Gives Him the Air and Makes Freak Flight to Join Lover in Atlantic Liner, (sub-sub-subhead)Romantic Reunion in Mid-Ocean.
In a nightclub a Spanish couple is dancing to entertain the crowd. Suddenly everyone takes off, running from the room – everyone that is, except the dancers and a slick-looking man of about 40. Confused, but not stupid, he joins the run, but at a slower pace. The dancers try to “show-must-go-on” it, but they just get buffeted and shoved by the people fleeing. On deck a fair number of Chinese sailors are getting into a longboat, which has been hanging on davits. It is swung out and lowered into the sea, and the men start rowing out to a floating airplane. It is Lindy’s daughter, her freak flight having crashed (on purpose), and it is word of the crash that has cleared the ballroom.
The Girl stands in the flooded airplane cabin and hands out bag after bag, finally deigning to climb into the boat, followed by the pilot, who has been politely handing her the bags one by one. Once she is installed in a stateroom Slick comes along and pretends to be waiting for someone. It pays off because he sees The Boy arrive, knock, and hears him told to come in. From then on, wherever they go onboard Slick is just around the corner. So when The Boy gets seasick, Slick just moves in.
The Girl and Slick get telegrams at the same time (historic note: the printed heading on the telegrams reads, “Via Marconi”), and hers says, “Does life mean nothing to you that you risk it for that cake hound. Your boulevard sheik is only after my bankroll.” No word on what message Slick got, but probably something like “Keep up the good work.”
There’s a funny scene where The Girl visits the seasick lad in his stateroom and the ship begins to rock, courtesy of having the camera rock left, then right, while the actors flail and fall around the cabin. She has arranged for the captain to marry them, but The Boy was not informed and had noting to say about it, so gets upset. They fight and she leaves. Now the ship arrives in Cherbourg, and the Cunard Express takes everyone to Paris.
The Boy visits her in her hotel and doesn’t like the company. She seems to have already attracted a wild crowd – and Slick is there too. She leaves to change, apparently not for the first time, and returns in a frilly little number with extra pieces of filmy fabric hanging down everywhere. She asks The Boy if he likes it, and is stung in front of her guests when he replies, “I have always been taught that simplicity is the keynote of good taste.” What a dummy!
Now, she is too smart for this dude. She counters, “If I have offended your good taste, I must try to make amends.” So she goes back into the bedroom and comes out dressed like the Little Match Girl – plain dress, plain shawl clutched to her chin, she even has a handful of confetti to throw over her head for snow. Her guests are delighted and laugh uproariously (and I did too), and he is embarrassed. He brushes some confetti off her shoulder – too roughly, and she swans over to Slick and asks, “Which do you think the most charming creation?” He replies, “The wearer, undoubtedly.” So the Boy has lost the battle AND the war.
Now her father arrives in Paris and tells her that the market broke and they are ruined. She feels she must help out and so she gets a job at a popular night spot putting free flowers in gentlemen’s lapels. The story is so straightforward that a surprise ending seems impossible, but there is one.
Betty Balfour is delightful, a real presence to seek out when selecting silent movies (and British talkies – she worked in film through 1936, with one more appearance in 1945). And Jean Bradin gives every indication of being an appealing actor, thought not in this role where the character’s inexperience makes him foolish. Balfour is the main reason to watch, plus the humor.
Surprisingly Hitchcock had a hand in the writing. The credits read Adapted by Alfred Hitchcock from an original story by Walter C. Mycroft, Scenario by Eliot Stannard, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

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