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Edna May Oliver
Mary Rutledge arrives from the east, finds her fiance dead, and goes to work at the roulette wheel of Louis Charnalis' Bella Donna, a rowdy gambling house in San Francisco in the 1850s. She falls in love with miner Carmichael and takes his gold dust at the wheel. She goes after him, Louis goes after her with intent to harm Carmichael. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"You don' t think they call me 'Old Atrocity' for nothing, do you?"
Walter Brennan plays "Old Atrocity," and he brings a lot of comedy to this lively drama doing his signature old codger (never mind he was 41 at the time). Also fun, of course, is the MacArthur/Hecht screenplay, which actually manages to capture the outlaw feeling of Gold Rush days at the Golden Gate. Moody lighting and foggy sets help.
But I enjoyed "Barbara Coast" for something else entirely: the pairing of Edward G. Robinson and Joel McRea. Both are among the most attractive film actors of all time but for reasons as different as they are.
Short (5'5"), dark, raised in Bucharest and New York City, Edward G. (for Goldenberg) Robinson looks nothing like a matinée idol. Nevertheless, he didn't just star in films, he commanded the screen, even when his co-star was Bogart or Bette Davis, James Stewart or Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles or Barbara Stanwyck. He handled as wide a variety of roles as anyone, ever: He's famous for violent gangsters ("Little Caesar"), but he was every bit as good as a tragic lead ("Bullets for Ballots"); as film noir characters from villains ("Key Largo"), to dupes ("Scarlett Street"), to heroes ("Night has a Thousand Eyes"); in biography (Dr. Paul Ehrlich); in comedy ("Larceny, Inc."); and he was also a spectacular character actor ("Double Indemnity"). The list is almost endless-- except for musicals-- because his career spanned seven(!) decades.
I'll watch Robinson in anything.
Tall (6'3"), blond and blue-eyed, born in Southern California, Joel McRea is as gorgeous a man as ever faced a camerabut he had very little range. He could affect a few things-- steely determination, boyish charm, and thoughtful confusion were comfort zones-- but his face almost never changed except to smile a bit from time to time. Never mind; he was a precursor to very, very long list of pretty boys who became competent actors, from Valentino through Erroll Flynn and Steve McQueen to Brad Pitt.
I'll watch McRea in anything, too.
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