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|Index||12 reviews in total|
This film ... which no one seems to admire but me ... I believe to be one of the finest, touching, moving films I know. I do not believe that Beery plays Polaki as "half-witted" ... I believe his performance is so subtle that he comes across as much closer to "child-like", and so much more endearing. The script is tight. The photography much better than average. Sets are well decorated, lighting is fine. While some may consider the ending to be ambiguous, I do not. I think that Laura waits for him, and they "live happily ever after." But, to have shown that would have degraded to film from representing genuine "seniment" to the too-often-used "sentimentality." The character Laura is quite 'real' ... we've all know women like her. Can't understand why no one seems to recognize its fine aspects.
It's sometimes hard to find John Ford's touch here.This is a pure melodrama
that recalls Stahl's works:the German side is also present in "back street"
released the same year.The characters are close to Marcel Pagnol's ones
(see" Angèle"(1934),"la fille du puisatier"(1941))It does not matter if the
action takes place in Germany ,in NYC or in Provence:unmarried mothers
abound in Pagnol's movies.Wallace Beery's character reminds me of
Fernandel's parts:both are good guys,naive with a very strong
Actually ,Ford's touch can be felt when it gets to wrestling scenes.We find back his great moral stature ,his values,when Beery shows his dislike for the "I tell you when you win and I tell you when you lose" thing.This might have influenced other directors for better (the set- up,Robert Wise,1949)or for worse(Rocky,Alvidsen,1977).
Wallace Beery is undeniably the stand-out,but the supporting cast is excellent.It's strange how the drinks work on a man!When Wallace sticks with beer (good for wrestling?)everything works out fine,but when he switches to whiskey (evil drink?),it's the beginning of the end.How many 2001 movies will be still watchable in 2070?This one deserves to be seen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Top-notch melodrama starring Wallace Beery as Polakai, a German
wrestler/waiter/strong man who does a little of all three at the beer
garden where he works - he can carry a big, heavy beer barrel on his
shoulder and is really a kind of big, goofy lug - but is a gentleman,
and quite a nice fellow. When an American woman named Laura (Karen
Morley), a somewhat humorless, sarcastic kind of gal just released from
prison, has no money to pay her bill at the beer garden - Polakai (good
guy that he is) pays it for her, then offers her a place to sleep in
his rooms above the restaurant, no "strings" attached. Polakai soon
falls in love with Laura, but Laura is desperately in love with bad guy
Nicky (Ricardo Cortez) - so she tricks Polakai into thinking Nicky is
her "brother", then gets Polakai to give her money to help get Nicky
out of prison. Poor, misled Polakai! But when Nicky turns up, he's not
exactly most girl's idea of a knight-in-shining-armor as he hits Laura,
uses her, pushes her into marrying Polakai so they can get ahold of his
money - the works.
Well, this is a really excellent film with absorbing story and really well-done acting. Wallace Beery is very good in his part here, putting on a German accent and playing the nice guy to the hilt - he really made me want to root for his character. Ricardo Cortez is super playing the dark, handsome, slick and slimy Nicky. The scenes in the beer garden are atmospheric and fun - it looks like quite the place to be with it's checkered tablecloths, giant mugs of beer flying across the long bar, and crowd of tables that circle 'round, of all things, a wrestling ring! One puzzlement - I can't really say why this was called "Flesh" (unless it's based on getting more glimpses than anyone would want to see of Wallace Beery's bare flesh in the wrestling ring) - but doesn't matter, a really terrific movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am surprised that John Ford did not have a directorial credit on this
film - that is usually reserved for films that no one wants to own but
this is a very fine, excellent film. Wallace Beery is usually
remembered as the star not many people could get on with (except Louise
Brooks!!) but he was an extremely good actor when the parts were not
too syrupy. "Flesh" is reminiscent of "The Secret Six" and Beery gives
a powerful performance as Polakai, a too trusting wrestler.
Laura Nash (Karen Morley) is being released from a German prison but although she pleads with the stony faced warder (Frank Reicher), Nicky, her boyfriend, is not to be released. In a beer garden she makes the acquaintance of Polakai (he helps her pay her bill), a waiter who also doubles as their star wrestler. He gives her a place to stay - in exchange she teaches him English and tidiness. She is also taking his money and when she is caught she spins a story about getting her "brother" out of prison. Polakai gets her "brother" out of prison but Nicky (Ricardo Cortez) proves to be not the type of boy you would take home to meet the parents. They keep the "brother" and "sister" act going but when Laura confesses that she is having his child, he convinces her to marry Polakai and go with him to America - he then skips out, being the slimy rat that he is!!! Not once during the film does he express any concern or love about the baby!!!
When the baby is born Polakai and Laura go to America to see if he can conquer the wrestling scene there as he did in Germany. Of course Nicky comes back into their lives - the way he explains his awful behaviour - "I'm not looking for a medal - just thanks"!!! Suddenly Nicky is Polakai's manager and does his best to corrupt the gentle wrestler. Along with Willard (John Miljan) they tell him when to lose and when to win. Polakai decides to quit wrestling and earn his money honestly but Laura can't handle the poverty and goes back to Nicky - he is less than keen, he even beats her. She doesn't care - she is such a chump and returns to Polakai but only to persuade him to re-instate Nicky as his manager. As he climbs to the top of the wrestling world he switches from beer to whiskey - the drink of degradation!!! (A similar thing happened in "The Secret Six" only then the unoffending drink was milk).
Polakai can't cope with the dishonesty of what he is forced to do and becomes a drunk. Laura knows that her actions are to blame and tells him the truth about everything. He is supposed to throw the fight that night but Laura gives him the courage to fight in the fair way his conscience dictates. The final scene shows Polakai in prison (he has killed Nicky after witnessing a particularly brutal beating) with Laura promising that soon things will be alright again.
1932 was a big year for Karen Morley - she appeared in 10 films with varying success. She was given plum roles in "Arsene Lupin", "Flesh" and "Scarface" - then things went wrong. She was independent and opinionated (like Ann Dvorak) and Hollywood didn't like that - especially in starlets. When she married top young director Charles Vidor, that was it - by the next year she was reduced to a tiny role in MGM's lavish "Dinner at Eight". And where would the movies be without Ricardo Cortez and John Miljan!!!
Flesh is the story of two people who would seem to be unlikely alliances. This is just one example of how films in the golden days of Hollywood center on character and how they relate to each other to further the plot rather than action or violence. There is something natural or humanely real and raw about this film. That's probably why it's called Flesh. But it's not centering on lust or sex, like today's films would, with Flesh for its title. This is about the basic need to give and receive love and acceptance to each other, even in the last place you'd look. If you're looking for an intelligent film about human relationships and don't mind the early 1930s look of black-and-white, this film shows Karen Morley, a vastly underrated actress and largely forgotten today, and Wallace Beery at their best. This could very well be Ms. Morley's finest hour in films. To not see this film would be missing a lesson in love.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I read the summary for this film, it didn't sound all that
interesting AND the thought of Wallace Beery playing a German wrestler
just sounded stupid. Despite this, I gave it a watch and was thrilled
that I did. While not the greatest film I have seen, it sure was much
better than average and packed a lot of story and entertainment into
such a simple film.
The film starts in Germany. An American, Karen Morley, is in a women's prison and is discharged without her child and with no money or a home. Ms. Morley appears to be a completely selfish sociopath and when she meets up with the incredibly sweet but very gullible Beery, she takes advantage of his decency. She sponges off him and pretends to love him while she bides her time until her her lover, Ricardo Cortez, returns. When Richardo does return after some time, she introduces him as her brother and Beery pays to get him out of jail and tries to help him get on his feet. However, Karen is shocked that Ricardo isn't interested in running off with her, but wants her to stay and marry Beery so they can slowly bleed him of everything! When the film is in Germany, there are some German-speaking actors (such as Jean Hersholt) and Beery actually did a pretty good job with his German accent and pronunciation, though he and his friends often speak in English when they really should be using more German (a bow to the audience, no doubt). Oddly, although Morley had been in a German prison, her pronunciation and knowledge of the language was basic, at best. But this is a very, very minor quibble.
As for the good, the script was terrific and the acting wonderful. You really find yourself caring about the characters--particularly Beery. Aside from Beery, Ricardo Cortez was a real standout--he was so sleazy and awful and yet slick, he made a great villain. Also, the movie ends very well--with neither a totally down-beat ending or a happily-ever-after ending. Instead, it left some loose ends and didn't seem formulaic.
Yes, it's a predictable, old fashioned, transparent soap opera, but
there are things which keep you interested to the end.
Beery has a difficult task. Being a wrestler (he was no Mr. Universe), holding onto a German accent, and playing a slow witted character. He does it. He seems to be doing his own wrestling (I zoomed in with slow motion), his accent doesn't slip, and being dumb, as hard as can be to be performed..he carries it off with only a bit of his patented "Ain't I the lovable slob" shtick.
Morley nails it as a cynical, world weary woman eager to make the wrong choice in men. Cortez is at his best playing slick sociopaths, and he does it here again. Their performances keep you watching when Beery and his Germanic crew get too schmaltzy
*** (out of 4)
John Ford's drama about an ex-con named Laura (Karen Morley) who gets released from prison with nothing and after stealing some food it appears she's going back until Polakai (Wallace Beery), a German wrestler, comes to her aid and soon takes her in. It doesn't take long for Polakai to fall in love but what he doesn't know is that Laura has a partner (Ricardo Cortez) in prison who is about to cause trouble. FLESH isn't the greatest film in Ford's career but I found it to be one of those unique ones that really doesn't get enough credit or any credit at all. It seems that all great directors like Ford, Hitchcock or Bergman have films that are special but they get overlooked because they don't quite measure up to the masterpieces. I think that's where FLESH falls in because while it's no where near the masterpiece of THE SEARCHERS, it's still a pretty unique movie on a number of levels. The best thing going for the picture is Beery who easily steals things. You'd think Beery playing a wrestler wouldn't be that much of a stretch but the actor brings so much to the role that you can't help but be impressed with him and fall for the character. Playing dimwitted is never easy and most actors fail but Beery perfectly nails it. Even better is the way he brings across this certainly level of feeling and emotion for everything that happens in the story. Morley is also extremely good in her part as she makes you believe everything you're watching. The chemistry between the two leads is quite remarkable. Cortez is also good in his supporting bit as is Jean Hersholt. The one problem is FLESH is that it's a tad bit too predictable and has one too many clichés but the performances and the look and tone Ford delivers makes it worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The two outstanding features of this story of good-natured, generous,
dumb slob of a wrestler, Wallace Beery, and Karen Morley, the blond he
falls for and who subverts his virtues and talks him into fighting in
fixed matches, are: (1) Wallace Beery's unforgettably inept performance
as a German, and (2) Karen Morley's figure, which is so wispy as to
hardly exist. She has no shoulders, no bosom, no rump, and her long
bones looks so fragile that they might be snapped between two of
Beery's hammy hands.
Beery does his best but if you've seen "The Champ" you've seen this performance, only without the ludicrous German accent. "Aww, Laura, you can not go avay because you know I luff you." Meanwhile, Ricardo Cortez, the suave, dark, conniving cad who impregnated Morley in prison, is balling her on the side. The guileless Beery has been led to believe Cortez is her brother.
Morley isn't actually a bad actress. She's about as good as most of the "dames" who populated the movies of the early 1930s. Her reluctance, when she marries the besotted Beery, is palpable. But even before the code, you couldn't have a baby out of wedlock without having your head torn off or something. The dim-witted Beery believes he's the father. When he finds out the truth and catches Cortez beating Morley, he strangles the cuckolder in a drunken rage. He's sent to jail but there are signs he'll get off easy. Morley visits him and tells him she and the baby are going away but he talks her out of it. "Awww, Laura, you moose stay because you know dah vay I feel about you." Interesting, how prohibition is handled. The Biergartens flourish in Germany. In Hoboken, they're illegal but not by much. The Germans of Hoboken simply move the Biergarten from the front of the establishment to the rear.
The best scenes take place in those Hollywood-studio German Biergartens, as a matter of fact. The band plays every traditional song you can think of -- "Du, du, liegst mir im Herzen," "Mussi I den," and various waltzes. Everybody drinks beer, eats sausages and potatoes, and dances the polka. The happy peasants of Hollywood, enjoying one of the director's community rituals.
I would imagine that the director, John Ford, got a kick out of the scenes in Germany and the immigration to New York. He was always interested in ethnicity. When introduced to Peter Bogdanovitch, the first thing he said was, "Serbian"? There is even the occasional play on words. Beery's land lady accuses him of hiding Morley in his apartment for immoral purposes, which Beery denies, and Morley puts in, "It was a Teutonic friendship." See, kids, the expected expression would be, "It's a Platonic friendship." This is a reference to the "Symposium" in Plato's dialogs. Plato was a philosopher in Ancient Greece. He argued that love could be sexless and lead to a contemplation of the divine. The authorities didn't get it, so they made him drink -- well, stuff you can find growing on the berm of Fifth Avenue in New York. Whatever you do, don't make tea out of it. I speak to you as your toxicologist.
It has its moments but it's in no way a sophisticated movie. Ricardo Cortez's character is thoroughly stereotyped. And Morley is a familiar type of woman, drawn to rogue males. And Beery -- nobody is that accommodating. Fun, though, in an undemanding and old-fashioned way.
Wallace Beery is excellent as a poor immigrant wrestler who befriends waif Morley, but cannot keep her from the clutches of crooked promoter Cortez. The movie is badly dated. Many of its themes are now irrelevant. But, the acting is excellent, and a twist ending may surprise today's viewers.
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