|Index||3 reviews in total|
This one is another fast and fun example of Warner's B work in this
period, timing in at 75 minutes, with the usual cast of supporting
actors talking fast to get the words out. Guy Kibbee plays... well, a
typical Guy Kibbee role, except he's not a dolt this time, and it's
Aline McMahon, usually cast in the pre-codes as the gal who's seen it
all and shows it, who plays his love interest -- he's a pressman whose
wanderlust made him leave his family and head out over the world ten
years before. Now he's back and trying to woo his wife.
Of course the plot is not that simple. There's a bit of a political scandal in town and the rapprochement that's the heart of the story weaves its way in and out of that.
There are the usual fine, now-forgotten supporting actors in this piece. Nan Gey, playing the elder daughter, is cute as a button, and Oscar Apfel, who taught Demille how to direct a movie, has for him a sizable role. It's not a great movie, but there is some real chemistry between Kibbee and McMahon. Definitely worth a look.
MARY JANE'S PA (Warner Brothers, 1935), directed by William Keighley,
is not a hillbilly comedy nor is Mary Jane the center of attention. The
Pa in the title happens to be the main character of the story. Starring
Aline MacMahon and Guy Kibbee in another one of their family oriented
programmers, MARY JANE'S PA, following the basic pattern of their
previous screen efforts of BABBITT, BIG HEARTED HERBERT and THE MERRY
FRINKS (all 1934), is actually a better than the title indicates.
The 73 minute comedy-drama introduces Sam Preston (Guy Kibbee), a printer working from his Colorado home where he and wife, Ellen (Aline MacMahon) have established a weekly newspaper, The Silvertown Courier. One night while Ellen and two young daughters are asleep, the restless Sam, after hearing the train whistle from a distance, makes a hasty decision by deserting his family and taking the next train out of town. Awaken by the closing of the door, Ellen finds her husband gone, a farewell note and financial security from the Key State Utility Stock left to her, which turns out to be worthless. During the course of eleven years, Sam, having traveled the world to Calcutta, Paris, London, Melbourne and China, keeping himself financially secured with newspaper work, decides to return home. Upon his arrival, he finds his home has been converted to a local beer parlor and told by its bartender that Ellen had gone broke, sold the newspaper business and moved away with the children without a trace. Unable to locate his family, Sam becomes a side show barker. After the carnival makes a stop in town, Sam encounters a little girl (Betty Jane Hainey), having been separated from her older sister and boyfriend, roaming about alone, watching the shows. After conversing with the talkative child, Sam takes her home riding on an elephant. Coming inside the house, Sam discovers her to be his own daughter, Mary Jane. Told her father is "dead," Sam keeps his identity a secret, going under the name of Joshua Barker. Seeing Ellen has found a new life for herself as editor for the Hempstead Daily News, with the raccoon coat wearing Linc Overman (John Arledge ) as her star reporter, Sam also finds his eldest daughter, Lucille (Nan Grey), has grown to an attractive young lady in love with King Wagner (Tom Brown), son of a local banker (Robert McWade). Though Ellen is bitter towards her wanderlust husband, she does offer him employment as her live-in cook and handyman, much to the surprise of town gossips and dismay of Kenneth Marvin (Minor Watson), a leading candidate for legislature who intends on having Sam leave town in order for he to marry Ellen for reasons of his own.
A familiar plot reminiscent to stories commonly found in melodramas used during the silent era, MARY JANE'S PA, which originated as both book and play, did emerge as a silent motion picture in 1917 from Vitagraph Studios with Marc MacDermott in the Kibbee role. Though the plot was possibly considered old-fashioned material by 1935 standards, the worthwhile script by Peter Milne and Tom Reed, along with the fine chemistry between MacMahon and Kibbee make this an agreeable affair. MacMahon, good as always, gives a remarkable performance all around, especially one where she goes to watch over her young children asleep in their beds after finding her husband deserted her, with sad eyes of emotion silently thinking to herself, "What am I to do?" Kibbee's character may not warrant any sympathy for his decision, but enough pleasing results for why things turn out the way they do.
Aside from "Mary Jane" being the name of Sam's printing machine, Mary Jane, the youngest daughter, is awarded to newcomer, Betty Jane Hainey. Sporting dark curly hair, having a mature face for a little girl, comes across as a pint-size Mary Astor. Though likable, she's become one of those real obscure child performers who naturally failed to achieve any legendary status of Shirley Temple or to a lesser known degree, Jane Withers. Hainey may have enough camera close-ups to warrant some attention, but nothing worthy to generate future leading roles tho revolve around her. Even working with season veterans as Kibbee and MacMahon (in their final pairing for Warners), it would be hard even for a child actress like Hainey to steal any scenes from them. The same can be said for Nan Grey (spelled Gray in credits) and Tom Brown as the young lovers who make their presence known but scarcely noticeable.
MARY JANE'S PA may not win any merits as a sort-after film classic, but worthy entertainment properly viewed for Father's Day or whenever broadcast on Turner Classic Movies cable channel. As much as Mary Jane is not the central figure here, the attention no doubt is drawn mostly to both Ma and Mary Jane's Pa. (***)
Sam (Guy Kibbee) is an irresponsible jerk who has 'itchy feet'. His
desire to see the world is so great that he decides to leave his
family. However, he's not 100% rotten and he leaves a lot of stocks for
them so that they'll be okay financially.
Over a decade passes and Sam is curious about his old family. However, when he returns to his old town, he finds that it's practically a ghost town and the old newspaper they owned is gone. Eventually, he does locate the family--but he doesn't plan on moving back--he just wants to see them. Well, that's his plan at first....but after a while he decides to stick around a bit longer-- especially as his wife's new newspaper is endorsing a man Sam doesn't trust.
This is one of many pairings of Guy Kibbee with Aline MacMahon who plays the long-suffering wife. They worked well together and the film is enjoyable...but it has a basic weakness because Sam is a rather nice but also VERY despicable guy. But somehow it works despite this....
|Plot summary||Ratings||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|