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In its current form this is a real "Singin in the Rain" experience as the sound wanders in and out of sync for the entire film. However, it must have been released in a suitable format in 1929 - and that's definitely not the TCM print - or else it would not have gotten the good reviews it did which are quoted in a book I read on Olive Borden entitled "Olive Borden: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Joy Girl". If the version shown on TCM had been shown in theaters in 1929 it would have been greeted with boos, hisses, eggs, tomatoes, and any other groceries available to the audience. Another reviewer's comments on the TCM print being a probable merging of the sound on disc with just the film in a careless manner is the best explanation I've heard so far.
However, I was grateful to see this in any form and applaud TCM for at least showing what they had available. It's an interesting look into film and life as it stood at the end of the roaring twenties. The plot is simple and this is absolutely not a musical. It is simply the story of shipping clerk Tommy Flynn (Arthur Lake) who thinks his love for dance hall hostess Gracie Nolan (Olive Borden) is reciprocated. He finds out otherwise when he sees Gracie in the arms of stunt pilot Ted Smith (Ralph Emerson).
Arthur Lake is very much like a Mickey Rooney for the roaring twenties
an optimistic young man of the pre-Depression years. There are some
precode elements in this film which is really just a light romantic fluff piece. At one point we see Ted in his apartment in his robe with dance hall girl Bee in her nightgown on his lap. You'll have to look fast to see the other precode element - girls waltzing together towards the end of the movie. Then there is the whole element of the "stunt pilot" - the bigger than life pioneers and heroes of the 1920's. Also note the difference between the haves and have-nots right before the Depression. Tommy and his mother badly need the six dollars a week rent they get from a boarder in order to make ends meet, yet salaries for professional dancers are quoted at two hundred dollars a week! So you get the feeling that work and extra hours are plentiful, but they just don't pay very well for the average worker. This is the reason to watch such a film - not the pedestrian plot, but the little things that tell you about a bygone era.
Honorable mention among the cast - Lee Moran as the soda jerk at the dance hall and the Flynn's boarder that has a humorous Ned Sparks way about him. Unfortunately for him, the real Ned Sparks would soon be signed by RKO and that would be the end of Lee Moran. Margaret Seddon, as Tommy's mother, was 57 when she made this film and would live to be 95, outliving leading lady Olive Borden by 20 years even though Olive was 34 years her junior. Then there is Joseph Cawthorne as the crusty but sympathetic dance hall owner who did numerous comedy supporting roles for RKO in the early talkie years, usually as a Scandinavian that butchers his sentences without mercy.
And finally there is one big decision as to costume design that has me stumped. Why are both Olive Borden and Joseph Cawthorne wearing obvious cheap blonde wigs? A mystery for the ages. Recommended for the film history buff only.
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