Sassy manicurist Eve Fallon is recruited as an even more brassy reporter and she helps police detective boyfriend Danny Barr break a jewel theft ring and solve the murder of a baby.Sassy manicurist Eve Fallon is recruited as an even more brassy reporter and she helps police detective boyfriend Danny Barr break a jewel theft ring and solve the murder of a baby.Sassy manicurist Eve Fallon is recruited as an even more brassy reporter and she helps police detective boyfriend Danny Barr break a jewel theft ring and solve the murder of a baby.
A rousing round of CULT OF THE COBRA, followed up by either DR CYCLOPS or FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (depending on whether I'm feeling a Marshall Thompson double-bill is called for), and onto NARROW MARGIN (Peter Hyams remake; not the suspense film of the ages, but I do like this director's work overall, plus the Lady Archer, and people our store will stop and watch the action, or the fun scene where Sikking confronts Hackman over drinks, on the train). If I'm feeling things should take a classier turn, Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS is a favorite, and just exactly how many times BRAZIL has been shown on the premises is a matter of debate...but it's somewhere between infinite, and whatever comes after infinite.
When it occurs to me to slap BIG BROWN EYES on again--a wonderful, if forgotten "crime comedy"--I always get a warm fuzzy feeling. I love going that far back and yet still playing a film nobody seems to know, but is ultra-cool, and a little bit before its time. Some early vigilante-movie stuff going on here. Very savvy leading lady, aggressive, gets it done, out-performs the male detective who is enthusiastic to kick crime where it hurts, but seems either befuddled or embittered next to our smart-mouthed superwoman. Speaking of smart- mouths, I've just come fresh from my review of THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, and those who like the punch of a Shane Black script, and all that lightning-fast and super-entertaining dialogue, would do well to listen to everyone trading zingers in BIG BROWN EYES, decades ago. Try and listen; try and keep up.
Back to the screening of this film--me your Master Of Ceremonies--there are four huge reasons to watch this film, at the very least: Joan Bennett, Cary Grant, Walter Pidgeon, and maybe especially the amazing Mr. Lloyd Nolan. This was really my first look at Lloyd Nolan (I had seen HOUSE ON 92ND STREET, but that is a film that is trying not to draw attention to actors and acting, as it goes for docudrama as done by "regular people"), and I only really knew his name as if vaguely connected to THE TERMINATOR and lawsuits and THE TWILIGHT ZONE or some such complicated frippery. Anyway, when I run BIG BROWN EYES at the store, we are known to attract some curious viewers. Mainly the old fellows with the sentient beards, who realize they are watching something sprightly, and just a bit dangerous, filled with these big names giving energetic performances, and spouting sharp dialogue while weaving in and out of mayhem. These knowledgeable old film buffs with their beards and their trivia-packed memories try to connect Cary Grant, Joan Bennett, LLoyd Nolan, and Walter Pidgeon all together in a superior film which surely they must know, but don't--and all wind up asking me "Sirrah--(oops, or rather:) --Good Sir, stout fellow, what be yon film?". And I give them the scoop. And sometimes we sell a Cary Grant boxset. And everyone comes away happy. Especially me, as I watch flower-loving gangster prone to violence Lloyd Nolan define the breezy nastiness of this film in all his scenes.
Hitchcock seemed to do some culling here, for casting, Hey, isn't that the dude who shows up in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT? That other guy there, playing one of the gunsels--he shows up in SABOTEUR, yes? Goodness me, I'm getting good at these old movies finally! And Cary Grant, I seem to recall him showing up in a few Hitchcock films, or am I wrong? Anyway, suffice it to say: I like BIG BROWN EYES better than ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, which I guess means there's something wrong with me and I can't be totally trusted, but there it is. A little less loudness and bombast going on, and I'm happy. A little more naturalism to the performances (even in 1936!), and I'm enjoying myself. Noisy where necessary, calm and cool where required.
A baby-killing in the middle of a "comedy" is probably not something everyone likes. I'm not saying that I sat there waiting for it to happen ("where's this big infanticide they advertised-- they sure are taking their sweet time!"--no no, nothing like that), but once the film commits to such a development, in a 1936 comedy, the film has one of those ahead-of-its-time moments. Is this Tarantino, shaking things up, making it edgy, making it a bit discomforting and depraved while still brilliant? No, it can't be. I don't think he wrote stuff before he was born. Anyway, I like risks; I like it when it gets in your face a bit. This film is charming enough--throw in some vigilante-justice stuff, and a vile act or two, and things percolate better. The social conscience of the film--before and after the life-taking gunplay in the park--means that it's wrong to see this just as a screwy comedy, and that's fine with me.
So, BIG BROWN EYES. Something a bit edgy for its time. Very slick and clever--great dialogue coming at you throughout, especially from the lady, who rips through things with guts and gusto. Hail Joan Bennett in this, liberated woman. I love this movie!
- Oct 6, 2011