Great Gabbo, The

19. THE GREAT GABBO (1929-USA). WITH eric von stroheim, betty compson. Directed by James CRUZE. Based on a story by Ben HECHT. Erich Von Stroheim, the legendary, controversial director-performer-screenwriter, makes his sound film debut in this eerie, ironic gem Of a tale. He Offers a vivid performance as the title character, a temperamental, egotistical ventriloquist. Gabbo constantly puts down Mary (pert Betty Compson, the wife Of the film’s director, James Cruze), his ever-patient girlfriend-assistant. Gabbo is unsubtle in his cruelty. When Mary lovingly tells him that this day marks their second anniversary as a team, he crudely remarks, “Two years too much.” Gabbo feels more at ease talking to Otto, his dummy. “Little Otto there is the only human thing about you,” Mary finally tells him. ‘The only sweet things you’ve ever said to me have Come from Otto.” At the same time, there is no lack Of truth to the observation Of a fellow performer: “(Gabbo) talks to that dummy like it’s another person.” Otto can speak even when Gabbo is eating, drinking or smoking, which is what makes their act unique. Ultimately, however, the wooden dummy is more than just a performer’s prop. It serves as the conscience Of its master, and eventually it controls the man. This early sound film makes creative use Of the new medium, particularly during the musical numbers which are interspersed throughout the story. 96 minutes. Drama