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Reel one gives you the business, the rest is pleasure.
As this was my first Will Rogers experience, I had no expectations beyond those which David Butler's credit as director aroused.
Mr. Butler had amazed me with an astonishing opening shot for his "Sunny Side Up" (1929). In that film, as the credits faded, I recalled his camera floating over a crowded tenement street as vignettes of life unfolded before it. The all seeing eye rose to peek into window after window, down both sides of the street and all in one take! What my anticipation received was a storm tossed ocean liner with an unpleasant series of seasick passengers. [Joel McCrea fan alert: his thankless role goes downhill from here, if that's possible]. Rogers' character is introduced to negative reactions from all involved; he's not seasick. Perhaps David Butler realized how bad the rest of "Sunny Side Up" looked after the socko opening and lowered expectations here. In either case, first views establish mood. This reel was hard to shake off, but the effort is worthwhile.
Reel 2: Will plays Earl Tinker, a leading razor blade manufacturer who graces each package with his goofy visage. Be alert for the Three Stooges foil Vernon Dent doing a falsetto voice. Joel McCrea's on hand to bring on the romantics. A winsome Peggy Ross playing Tinker's daughter is towered over by him, and I'm surprised he never steps on her. The viewer will be further challenged to suspend logic as the plot requires you to believe that Tinker is headed into the desert to buy the secret to making Damascus Steel. Now, if you think about it, you'll probably wonder, how is steel making going on among these sand dunes? And this Damascus Steel is the world's finest. So don't think about it, the film makers didn't. After all, Booth Tarkington's novel probably explained it better and this is watered down from a play adapted from the book "The Plutocrat". Jetta Goudal lurks effectively and proves herself to be a worthy villain. As Madame Mamora, she'll spy on Tinker for his competitor and "foresee" anything that comes between Tinker and his Damascus Steel. Her crystal ball sets up a hilarious Rogers impersonation.
Boris Karloff menaces in the final reel in another of his pre-Frankenstein cameos. He's most believable as the tribal chief until Mr. Karloff calls for his camel and horses show up. It's all great fun though, and after all, this was a more innocent time. Key plot phrase: "the magic box (radio) never lies".
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