In 1928, various other studios were already full-speed ahead making part-talkies and all-talking pictures while MGM was still dragging their feet. They had been so successful with their silent pictures that they didn't want to throw out a good thing. The change to talkies was inevitable, as even poor-quality talkies were proving to be box-office gold as the novelty of the form drew crowds to the theaters. A Lady of Chance (1928) started off as a silent film and then talking scenes were spliced in making it a part-talkie. Norma Shearer didn't partake in the talking scenes so Norma fans only got to hear her voice in MGM's first talking picture The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929). I have only ever seen the version TCM has shown of A Lady of Chance which is all silent.
I consider this film a silent-talkie hybrid. It works very well as a silent. All of the characters have their own dualities, they are not what they seem to be. They are all putting up fronts whether deviously or on subconsciously. This relegates a lot of expression in their faces which we read in order to understand what's going on. The form of the story and how it flows is very much like talkies from the early '30s and less like the silents from the early to mid '20s. It seems less theatrical and staged and more fluid.
Dolly: I had no idea a big business man could be so tender.
Steve: It's easy to be tender with you.
This is by far my favorite Norma Shearer film. Norma is at the height of her natural beauty and because this is a silent film, she still uses plenty of her vibrant facial expressions and characteristic hand movements which suit the movie and her character. Hunky former college football star Johnny Mack Brown complements her very well and I think they made a very good-looking onscreen couple. Also, this film is just fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a romantic comedy with a good amout of dramatic tension. The only thing I don't like is that there are a couple racist moments, but I concede it's 1928 and in comparison to some other silents this one is pretty tame.
A Lady of Chance is not available on DVD but my fingers are crossed that the Warner Bros. Archive will make it available for a made-to-order DVD-R very soon (they own all pre-1986 MGM films). If not, Turner Classic Movies shows this film once in a blue moon, usually at some ungodly hour or on their regular Silent Sunday nights feature.
I hope you enjoyed Norma Shearer week!