Buckley is an unethical reporter who manipulates the news for his own benefit as much as he reports it. When he is in Paris to get a medal for being rescued from his alleged kidnappers, he ... See full summary »
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Buckley is an unethical reporter who manipulates the news for his own benefit as much as he reports it. When he is in Paris to get a medal for being rescued from his alleged kidnappers, he finds that his boss, Stevens, at the Chicago Globe is going with his old gal Dolly. When Stevens learns that Dolly is staying with Buckley in Moscow, he fires Buckley. To get his job back, Buckley and Lefty stage a great news story about the shooting of the last Romanoff, but the plan backfires and they are now in line to be shot by the Commissar. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The portrait of newspaper reporters in '30s films is hardly complimentary, for the most part. Fast talking, glib, often quite amoral, anything goes for a story, including fabricating one, if necessary.
Broadway actor-turned-Hollywood-actor Lee Tracy was simply one of the best at playing this kind of unscrupulous breed. With his machine gun nasel voiced delivery and strong facial comic reactions, Tracy was always curiously likable no matter what scheme his characters, in this case American reporter Buckley Joyce Thomas, may have connived.
Clear All Wires, made while he was briefly at MGM in 1933, captures the actor very much in his fast talking prime. The film is fast and hectic, with more than capable support from James Gleason as Tracy's faithful henchman, ready to do anything, including literally shooting someone, if it will help his boss, as well as Una Merkel, as a former paramour of the reporter who now, rather inconveniently, has become the girlfriend of his boss.
Above all, though, this comic adventure, which starts in the Moroccan desert (look for Mischa Auer as a sheik), gradually shifting to Moscow where, of course, anything goes for a news story, is Tracy's show.
At one point, ironically, his character is fired for "conduct unbecoming a gentleman." This would actually foreshadow events in the actor's own life, for the following year he would be fired by MGM on the on-location set of Viva Villa!, bringing to an end, unfortunately, Tracy's time in major Hollywood productions, for his own "ungentlemanly behaviour" from a Mexican balcony.
And it was a loss, not only for the actor but viewers of '30s films, when Lee Tracy was afterward relegated to working with lesser material in smaller studios. It would never again be quite the same for him, though he would storm back on stage and then screen thirty years later with strong Oscar-nominated character work as the U.S. President in Gore Vidal's The Best Man. That, however, would be a distinctly older, grim Tracy just a few years shy of his death from cancer.
Clear All Wires gives the viewer the opportunity to see the young Tracy still in his prime, and he's fun to watch, even if the material, ultimately, may not be quite as funny as it is smartly paced.
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