Plot and Acting are Unconvincing and Unreal--Single Strong Feature is Scene of Mine Cave-In
As a whole, Cecil DeMille's all-talking production of "Dynamite" results unfortunately. True, many audiences will be either entertained lightly by the story, or interested deeply by at least one of the scenes, namely, the cave-in at the coal mine. But in general the picture fails to produce anything real or substantial. The theme, that it is better to be poor, honest and hard-working rather than rich, idle and thrill-seeking, adds little new or even convincing information. The main story, involving the barter of a husband between two rich women, has the advantage of oddity, but it is only amusingly and farcically portrayed.
Disjointed and disconnected, the plot results in a welter of many unequal scenes. The sentencing of the miner, Hagon Derk, to death for a murder which he has not committed, has power and introduces the play well; but the following scenes, lack corresponding conviction--the "wild party" is only amusing, the accident to the child has some pathos, the wedding of the rich girl and the condemned criminal in his "death-cell" is made impressive by the guitar playing of another prisoner and by the hammering on the gallows outside. The mere listing of the scenes shows how many stage tricks were forced weakly together into a plot.
Nor does any good acting save the day; Charles Bickford convinces most, but the others are unable to rise above the disconnectedness of the plot. DeMille's directing produces a single strong feature--the final scene wherein the woman and her two lovers are trapped by a mine cave-in, thousands of feet below ground. Conrad Nagel, presented at last with an opportunity to act, responds, and the realism of the solution of the triangle slightly atones for the production as a whole.