|Index||6 reviews in total|
Hollywood movies rarely focus on character who are, in the world's eyes,less
that beautifully stunning. Aline MacMahon as the heroine here is anything
but a beauty in the traditional sense. Paul Kelly is a man's man here, a
ship's crew member down on his luck because of his irresponsibility working
on cargo ships. Unable to get a job, Kelly spots MacMahon feeding animals
in the zoo. She takes sympathy on him when she realizes his plight, and
offers him a place to stay. Grateful to her but not interested in her, he
nevertheless manipulates her into marrying him in order to secure a place to
stay and have a good meal.
Obviously involved with other women, Kelly begins to realize his responsibility when he learns that she's pregnant with his child. Of course, circumstances arise which threaten her happiness and make him look at the type of human being he has become.
The moral lesson of this rather short but interesting drama is that a person's beauty is not judged by their looks, but by the actions from their heart. Kelly, as the selfish sailor, uses the lonely MacMahon to get what he wants. In the process, he has to face his own conscience as he deals with physically beautiful women with hearts of stone. To her character's credit, MacMahon does not make her unbelievably perfect, either; as the owner of a fur shop, she takes obvious pleasure in overcharging the wealthy older men who buy furs for their greedy mistresses. She also deals with a seemingly sweet niece (Ann Dvorak) who takes an interest in Kelly. The writers go out of their way to show the shallowness of the beautiful women MacMahon encounters in her shop, one of whom includes Humphrey Bogart's third wife, Mayo Mathot. These women have no qualms about destroying MacMahon's happiness to get what they want-and what they want is her man!
Kelly plays his character as totally believable. A scoundral who has flashes of morals, he is not one dimensional or unbelievable. The lessons he will have to learn lead to a tearful conclusion. "Side Street", thankfully available through occasional screenings on TCM, is a drama which is thought-provoking as well as entertaining. MacMahon, one of Warner Brother's best actresses of the 30's, is heartbreakingly unforgettable.
SIDE STREETS (1934) comes in at the edge before the Hollywood
Production 'Code' put the brakes on sexual situations and film
creativity. Only Cecil B. DeMille continued to get away with it,
wrapping his films in either pseudo patriotic or religious fervor.
This quick told story (63") is about a Women (Aline MacMahon) yearning for love and companionship. Finding it in a Man (Paul Kelly) a failure at his chosen profession as a seaman, who has a wandering eye, but in the end learns the importance of what his Wife has to offer. The film addresses frankly the problems of marriage, loss (their Baby dies) and adultery. In one scene, obviously pre-code, Kelly and MacMahon are shown in the same bed together under the covers. A real 'No-No' back then! MacMahon in several scenes shows a sensitivity that is heart-breaking.
Both Kelly and MacMahon would have long film careers as well as making their mark on the Broadway Stage. They make a attractive and believable couple, nothing phony here. The rest of the supporting cast is effective. Particularly Ann Dvorak, one of Kelly's dalliances. This attractive, slim Actress is barely known today and most of her films are unseen. Take advantage of her when you can, especially her pre-code films, they are well worth watching!
This is a sentimental favorite of mine with an actress - Aline McMahon
- that was usually linked with supporting comedic roles in a rare lead
appearance in a drama. But wow, just wow, could she tug your heart
strings when you gave her a chance. Watch this film and "Heat
Lightning" to know what I'm talking about.
Aline McMahon is Bertha, a "side street" furrier. She's not one of the big outfits so she has to be cagey and good with the customers to make a respectable but not great living, and she does. She meets a down and out sailor, Tim (Paul Kelly). She's lonely, he needs room and board, she offers him a job, he takes it. It isn't long before it's obvious he's just milking the situation and doing as little as possible to earn his keep, probably sensing Bertha's loneliness will keep a roof over his head. He strengthens his position even more when he marries her. Now Bertha is being made out to be "a spinster", even though she looks all of 35 and has a very natural beauty if you ask me. All of this dialogue about her being a plain Jane perplexes me. She's a woman alone in the world who is busy trying to keep a business afloat and doesn't have time to dress up in her own fancy merchandise.
After marriage, Tim is kind enough to Bertha, but a new sweetie soon has his eye in the person of Marguerite (Ann Dvorak). He's thinking about heading back out to sea but then he finds a bill for an obstetrician visit among Bertha's things and suddenly becomes a changed man. He makes as close to a confession to Bertha as you'd ever get of a slicky boy like Tim, and Bertha says she's known all along and forgives him. Tim breaks it off with Marguerite, determined to turn over a new leaf, but there's one thing with Marguerite he can't break off.
I'll let you watch and see how this all works out. This film really gives you a feeling of how the long-term lowered expectations of the average man and woman on the street during the Great Depression affected their behavior. Men and women unable to get work attaching themselves to one of the opposite sex that was financially OK just for survival, some of the wealthier people taking advantage of the situation, what happened to cast-off women in cases when the wealthy man didn't want them anymore. Highly recommended.
Supporting mainstay Aline McMahon gives a moving performance in the
lead in this brief melancholy drama about a spinster furrier and her
rocky relationship with a sailor in San Francisco. Just over an hour in
length it has more than its share of melodramatic moments that McMahon
reigns over with a quiet restrained dignity that infects the entire
Down and out Paul (Paul Kelly) crosses paths with Bertha at the zoo when he attempts to steal some peanuts she is feeding to the monkeys. Non-plussed by it all she saves him from being pinched and takes him in to help with the fur business she runs. Eventually they marry and have a child but Paul's wandering eye threatens to bring to an end.
Whether dealing with the business or the obstacles of her marriage Bertha displays a kind of weary resignation to all that befalls her. McMahon conveys this beautifully with sad eyed stoicism and without hysteria creating scenes of great power with less being more while Kelly, Dorothy Tree, Ann Dvorak and Helen Lowell offer strong counterpoint to her.
Alfred Green's direction takes the same unromantic view (before softening up a touch at the conclusion) as he did in Stanwyck's Baby Face with both coarse and cynical characters and situations evoking both the period and pre-code freedom. It also has the same rapid pace as well making it worth the brief time it requires to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Aline MacMahon, a Warners contract player not attractive enough for conventional stardom, was perfection in everything she did. Here she elevates a somewhat moldy soap opera and makes you understand, care for, and weep for a powerful woman plunged into unfamiliar waters by love. By happenstance she meets a down-on-his-luck sailor (Paul Kelly) who's a big hunk of trouble, and soon they're married, to the consternation of furrier MacMahon's one employee. It's hard to root for such a jerk as the Kelly character, but the screenwriters do drop in sympathetic moments to present a conflicted, somewhat Billy Bigelow-ish lout, transformed by fatherhood into responsibility but still with a roving eye and a gift for deceit. It takes Kelly's out-of-wedlock child, fathered with pretty Ann Dvorak, to bring this to its unlikely happy ending. But MacMahon is so mesmerizing--I don't know of any other actress who uses her eyes the way she does--that you root for them both and hope they'll live happily ever after.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two of my favorite underrated actresses, Aline MacMahon and Ann Dvorak,
star with Paul Kelly in "Side Streets," from 1934, right on the edge of
the code ending.
MacMahon plays Bertha, a hard-working furrier who takes pity on a sailor, Tim O'Hara (Kelly) whose reputation keeps him from finding work. She feeds him, gives him a place to stay, hires him to make deliveries for her company, and winds up married to him. He seems like a good guy, but we soon find out he is cheating on her with another woman, Marguerite (Dvorak).
Bertha becomes pregnant, and Tim adores the baby and helps care for him. Sadly, the baby dies. Bertha goes on, but she is devastated, as is he. Later he takes up with a coworker. Unbeknownst to him, Marguerite has had his child, and Bertha is helping her with the bills.
MacMahon was such a wonderful actress, pushed into character roles because she wasn't a beauty. Here, she's called "old" by a rival for Tim's affections, and Tim wanted someone young like himself; MacMahon and Kelly were both 35.
Dvorak, young and pretty, was a sparkling presence at Warners. She never liked her roles, married a Brit, worked for the British war effort, and retired in 1952.
Both actresses deserved to have much better careers.
This is a routine film but a nice story really brought to life by the acting. I highly recommend any film with either woman, and it's a special treat to have both in one movie.
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