'A Little Journey' isn't much of a trip, but most of the action takes place aboard a train ... so the characters keep moving, even when the story is dead on the rails. William Haines plays a brash young man who meets Claire Windsor in Grand Central Station and tries to make a play for her, but she's not having any. (Good on you, Claire.) Conveniently, both of them are boarding the same cross-country train, so Haines spends the rest of the film flinging woo at Windsor. This is one of those movies which says that if a man harasses a woman long enough, she'll eventually be attracted to him. Claire Windsor is chaperoned on her choo-choo ride by her aunt, played by Claire McDowell: this may well be the only movie ever made with two Claires in the female leading roles.
SPOILING THE OBVIOUS. Claire Windsor is on her way to San Francisco to meet the man she's engaged to marry. It's no surprise at all that she'll dump him and end up with Haines. What *is* a surprise is the casting: Windsor's intended is played by character actor Harry Carey, a much older man. Another pleasant surprise is that Carey's character turns out to be a nice guy. He steps aside so that his fiancée can be happy with Haines, and we last see him staring wistfully at a pert waitress. Lawford Davidson is less impressive in a less sympathetic role.
There has been some revival of interest in William Haines's films in recent years, due to growing public awareness that he was gay, and that he was forthright about his sexual orientation at a time when most gay actors stayed firmly closeted. Frankly, I've never found Haines believable as a romantic lead. In 'Show People', the only moment when he shows any real interest in Marion Davies is during the sequence in which he applies makeup to her face. Haines was not effeminate on the screen -- reportedly, he often acted effeminate *off* the screen in a deliberate attempt to alienate people -- yet I found his gayness quite obvious in his film roles, well before I knew anything about his personal life. The casting of Haines in this film's lead role is a serious obstacle to its success, and I'll rate this movie only 4 out of 10.
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