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The Guv'nor (1935)
The film that inspired Trading Places?
I recently saw this film on video and was pleasantly surprised. George Arliss was a real gem of the early cinema and this film continues to display his genius on screen. The film itself is the standard vehicle for Arliss, typically his character undermines some unscrupulous scheme whilst playing cupid to two young lovers. Even after several films this formula remained fresh due to Arliss' talent for reinventing characters. Its a great shame that more of his films aren't available, they have certainly endured more than many films half their age. The similarities with Trading Places are almost immediately obvious, the only difference is that this film is half a century older. A tramp (Arliss) is, through a series of plot twists, made a manager of a bank, in order to cover the unscrupulous dealings of two businessmen, who think him to be a simpleton. The businessmen find out to their cost as Arliss outsmarts and bankrupts them. The film also nicely parodies Arliss' early movie The House of Rothschild.
The Tunnel (1935)
Bland early sci-fi flick, showing more is less.
This film has long been available in a 71 minute form, and I believe only recently has surfaced in its full 94 minute version. Having seen it I can understand why it was cut. From an engineering viewpoint the premise is interesting and indeed there are some nice touches in it using early special effects, like video phones etc. At the time such ideas were left to Flash Gordon serials (mostly). It also tries to show the devastating effect that one mans obsession can have on his family. This is where the film sadly falls short of the mark. By concentrating more on this side of the story, the film all but ignores the tunnel completely. Were it not for the volcano impeding the progress of the tunnel, it would have been finished without anyone really noticing. Even George Arliss and Walter Hustons presence (limited to about three scenes in total each) can do little to save this movie.
His Lordship (1936)
Another great movie from George Arliss
This movie continues to display George Arliss' talent for reinventing characters. The plot itself is complicated and the whole movie serves as a vehicle for Arliss but that is indeed where the movie shines. Arliss plays twin brothers, one the pompous British foreign secretary and the other his street-wise worldly black sheep brother. Through a series of sinister events involving the murder of an Arab sheik, the foreign secretary brings the country to the brink of war with an Arab nation. Its only through the quick thinking and guile of his brother impersonating him that the murder is solved and peace prevails. The scenes with both brother sharing screen time in the same frame are extremely well done, especially in an age where special effects were prehistoric. Arliss' timing in these scenes also demonstrates his fine talents perfectly.