A surrealistic documentary portrait of the region of Las Hurdes, a remote region of Spain where civilisation has barely developed, showing how the local peasants try to survive without even the most basic utilities and skills.
ME AND MY GAL (Fox, 1932), produced and directed by Raoul Walsh, not to be confused with the Judy Garland and Gene Kelly musical, FOR ME AND MY GAL (MGM, 1942), is a nifty little comedy/drama that teams Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett for the second time (following their initial pairing in SHE WANTED A MILLIONAIRE (Fox, 1932)). Although Tracy reportedly didn't have much regard for the movies he did over at Fox during his five years (1930-1935) at the studio, he was said to have been proud of this production, and it's easy to see why. Under the good direction of Walsh, ME AND MY GAL has both good story and sharp dialogue to keep the pace moving at a high degree.
The story revolves around Danny Dolan (Spencer Tracy), a new Irish cop on the waterfront beat of New York City's Pier 13, going through his daily duties. After acquiring a dog and dealing with Joe Morgan (Will Stanton), a stumbling drunk, Dan comes to Ed's Chowder House Sea Food diner where he meets Helen Riley (Joan Bennett), a sassy, gum- chewing waitress/cashier with all the answers to Dan's questions. Helen has a sister, Katherine (Marion Burns), who's engaged to marry a nerdy buck-tooth, bespectacled Eddie Collins (George Chandler). Katherine has a shady past, having previously been involved with Duke Castenega (George Walsh), a gangster she cannot resist, especially when wanting her to go against her will by giving him a combination number list for safe deposit boxes. After saving a man's life from drowning, Dan is promoted detective working along with Al Allen (Adrian Morris), a fellow detective who earlier missed seeing Duke and his thugs departing the ship from South American on Pier 13. Duke gets arrested for a robbery and later breaks out of prison. As for Dan's courtship with Helen, he gets to meet the rest of her family, including Kate and their father, Pat (J. Farrell MacDonald). Situations become involved as Dan is assigned to locate Duke's whereabouts, unaware that he's hidden away in the attic of Kate's apartment as witnessed by Kate's war veteran father-in-law, John Collins, (Henry B. Walthall) paralyzed in a wheelchair with his only means of communication blinking code signals through his eyes. Others in the cast include of Noel Madison (Baby Face Castenega); with Eleanor Wesselhoeft, Russell Powell, Billy Bevan and Frank Moran in smaller roles. Be sure to stay tuned for J. Farrell MacDonald's full face close-up fade-out.
A very fast-paced 79 minute production with Tracy and Bennett doing their best competing with one another. Their most memorable moment is their parody to Eugene O'Neill's stage production (and later 1932 MGM drama) to STRANGE INTERLUDE where the two speak out their thoughts through their minds heard only by the movie going audience. This may be a loss to contemporary viewers, but in 1932, many understood the humor of it all.
Remade by 20th Century-Fox as PIER 13 (1940) starring Lloyd Nolan and Lynn Bari in the Tracy and Bennett roles, there's no doubt which version is better. Tracy and Bennett wouldn't work together again until many years later in the classic FATHER OF THE BRIDE (MGM, 1950) and its sequel, FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND (MGM, 1951). Never distributed to home video, ME AND MY GAL did enjoy some rare showings in revival movie houses, public television in the early 1990s, before turning up on cable television's Fox Movie Channel, Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: October 2, 2012) and then availability onto DVD. Considering how movies from the old Fox Film library have been lost or lay forgotten in the studio vaults, at least this not only is still available for viewing, but also one that can still be seen and surprisingly appreciated today. Check! (***)
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