Navy Lt. Richard Perry becomes an undercover man out to discover the leaders of a group of well connected men who pull off bank robberies during the McKinley administration (early 20th ...
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W.S. Van Dyke
Navy Lt. Richard Perry becomes an undercover man out to discover the leaders of a group of well connected men who pull off bank robberies during the McKinley administration (early 20th century).Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A pair of nuns escort a group of schoolgirls through Arlington National Cemetery, where they stop at the grave of Richard L. Perry, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. When the nuns are unable to answer a girl's query as to why Perry is buried therein, the film flashes back to 1901. The young Perry, played by Robert Taylor, is at a White House reception, where he is called into conference with President William McKinley. The President asks Perry to pursue a gang of bank robbers, who evidently have inside information from a high government source. Fearful that information sensitive to national security may also be at risk, the President tells Perry to drop out of the Navy without giving any reason, change his identity and break contact with friends, and only report by secretly coded letter to the President personally. This far-fetched premise sends Perry, without any apparent funds, to St. Paul, for no given reason, where he begins his quest for the robbers and the government leaker.
Viewers who can swallow the credibility-stretching plot conceived by Allen Rivkin and Lamar Trotti may find a few nuggets of silver among the gravel that constitutes "This is My Affair." Even the generic title, which offers no clue about the film's subject matter, is forgettable. Directed by William A. Seiter and filmed in black and white by Robert Planck, the movie is barely passable entertainment largely for fans of the stars. Robert Taylor in his youth was always too pretty for tough-guy roles, and he plays Perry without the necessary grit to convincingly stand up to his tough co-stars. Always a fascinating actress even in undemanding roles such as this, Barbara Stanwyck is Lil, a club singer and unwilling gangster moll. Lil performs, clumsily at times, in a club operated by Jock. Splendidly played by Victor McLaglen, Jock is a boorish childish jokester in love with Lil. When Taylor pursues an initially reluctant Stanwyck, the expected conflict with McLaglen arises, which, like everything else in this tired script, is a clichéd retread from dozens of other movies. Brian Donlevy as Batiste, the brains behind McLaglen, and John Carradine offer convincing support. However, Sydney Blackmer's corny impersonation of President Theodore Roosevelt is embarrassing; listening to him say "Speak softly and carry a big stick" over and over will make audiences cringe.
Although "This is My Affair" is somewhat vague as to what "affair" the title refers, the flimsy contrived plot offers little beyond a gangster story wrapped up in early 20th-century period costumes. Like the unnecessary prolog in Arlington Cemetery, the intrusive musical numbers that regularly interrupt the film only serve to extend the running time. Stanwyck was not noted for her singing or her dancing, and even her skill as an actress fails to convince that she is a great stage presence. While Taylor is handsome and Stanwyck is worth watching, McLaglen gives the film's best performance as Jock, the big overgrown kid, who always has a new joke or trick to play. However, other than McLaglen, Stanwyck, and Donlevy, "This is My Affair" could be re-titled "This is a Dull Affair."
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