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Don Juan (1926)
8/10
The Great Lover
16 September 2019
DON JUAN (Warner Brothers Classic of the Screen, 1926), directed by Alan Crosland, with screenplay by Bess Meredith, stars John Barrymore in one of his most notable performances of the silent screen era. Other than being a swashbuckling adventure inspired by Lord Byron, DON JUAN has the distinction of being the first feature film with Vitaphone recorded musical accompaniment by the New York Philharmonica Orchestra. Virtually a silent production, DON JUAN also includes sound effects (door knocking, swashbuckling sword hitting) but no spoken dialogue that would occur later in other experimental films as THE JAZZ SINGER (1927) leading to the dawn of sound.

Opening title: "The tale they tell of Don Juan, immortal lover and the doubter of women, is bold with life and color -- a merry, insolent tale slashed with intrigue -- yet its beginning is as gray as the old Spanish castle of Juan's earliest memories" PROLOGUE: SPAIN - Don Jose De Marana (John Barrymore), with a wife, Donna Isobel (Jane Winton) and son, Don Juan (Yvonne Day), leaves his family on a proposed mission, but in reality, suspecting his wife's infidelity, intents on sneaking back to the Marana Castle and surprise her. After receiving the signal, Don Jose returns and learns the truth - thus ordering servants to seal her lover, Leandro (John Roche) inside the room surrounded by stone blocks, and casting his wife out of his life forever. Years later, Don Jose, having raised his boy (Philippe De Lacy) alone, has had numerous affairs with various young ladies. This all ends by he being stabbed by a jealous mistress. Before dying, Don Jose warns his son to take all from women and yield at nothing. STORY: "ROME - The mighty Vatican towering heavenward above a seethe of corruption," leads to introduction of basic characters, including Cesar Borgia (Warner Oland) and his sister, Lucrenzia (Estelle Taylor), the inspiration of his vicious crimes. They invite Orsinis Duke De La Varness (Josef Swickard), his daughter, Adriana (Mary Astor) and Don Juan (John Barrymore), a young Spanish grandee graduate of the University of Pisa, to their ball gathering. Accompanied by Pedrillo (Willard Louis), his faithful servant, Don Juan, having romanced many young women, takes an interest in Adriana, the woman responsible for his change of opinion of women engraved by his embittered father. Because of her forced marriage to Count Giano Donati (Montagu Love) to save her father from execution, Don Juan mistakes her father's devotion to his betrayal, returning his distrust of women, followed by Don Juan's arrest for an accused death of one of his married mistresses, and Adrianna held prisoner at the tower of the Borgia palace for refusing to go on with her promised marriage to Donati.

For its time, DON JUAN was an important project (clocked at 114 minutes) with lavish sets and period costumes along with a huge cast consisting of Helene Costello (Rena); June Marlowe (Trusia); Phillis Haver (Imperia); Hedda Hopper (Marchesia Rionaldo); and future film star, Myrna Loy (Maia). While DON JUAN could have been played by Douglas Fairbanks or Rudolph Valentino, John Barrymore makes his Don Juan portrayal his own. Fairbanks did get to play the aging lover in THE PRIVATE LIFE OF DON JUAN (London Films, 1934) while Errol Flynn, another famous swashbuckler, assumed the role in THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN (Warner Brothers, 1948). Both are not scene-by-scene retelling to the Barrymore classic. In spite the story set in another century with ladies in 1920s headdress, many of the performers appear in heavy make-up and lip-stick, even the actors right down to child performer DeLacy. The most famous sequence includes the well-staged swashbuckling scenes between Barrymore and Montagu Love, but its the Vitaphone scoring that helps make this silent edition of DON JUAN fast-paced and enjoyable. Take notice how much Barrymore resembles his Mr. Hyde facial expression lifted from his earlier DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920) during his disguise sequence pretending to be Nehri (played briefly by Gustav Von Seyffertitz).

DON JUAN began broadcast on cable television on Turner Network Television (TNT) starting with its Silent Night (December 24, 1989) Christmas Eve Silent movie presentations along with BEN-HUR (1925) and THE WIND (1928) on the schedule. This was later followed by regular showings on Turner Classic Movies. DON JUAN was also available on video cassette as part of its Legendary Silents series, and years later, on DVD. Regardless of its age and campy presentations, DON JUAN continues to become one of the classics of the silent screen. (***)
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6/10
They Meet Again
8 September 2019
LONG LONG FATHER (RKO Radio, 1934), directed by Ernest B. Schoendsack, best known for adventure/ jungle settings as THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932), KING KONG (1933) and THE SON OF KONG (1933), attempts something entirely different from his usual directorial style. Taken from a novel by G.P. Stern, the story deals mostly about a bitterness between father and daughter who meet again after many years. Hardly sentimental in the silent melodrama perspective, this slight comedy-drama that relies more on the surprise presence of John Barrymore assuming the leading role.

Plot Summary: Set in England, Lindsey Lane (Helen Chandler), is an English entertainer engaged to Bill Strong (Donald Cook), an American physician who wants to take his future bride back with him to America. Lindsey, abandoned by her father when she was a child and raised by her now deceased mother, happens to be the daughter of Carl Bellair (John Barrymore), soldier of fortune, adventurer and correspondent with a passion for liquor. He has joined partnership with Sir Anthony Gelding (Alan Mowbray), manager of a cafe called The Happy Hour, where Carl mostly mingles with the guests. Though Lindsey Lane (her stage name) and Carl both know of each other's existence, they want nothing to do with one another. Eventually their paths meet again in a lawyer's (Ferdinand Gottschalk) office after receiving a letter to attend the reading of the will to the sole survivors of Aunt Arabella, leaving them with very little. Against his wishes, Carl finds himself, upon request by Gelding, to hire Lindsey to entertain at the Happy Hour floor show. She takes the job knowing her father doesn't want her there. Following her performance, Bill leaves to attend a maternity case. In his absence, Lindsey joins the company of Gelding and company. As Bill returns for Lindsey, Carl tells him she left with Gelding and his high society friends to attend a function elsewhere. Because of her association with Gelding and ignoring her performing duties at the Happy Hour, Carl steps in to get away from bad company and back to Bill. During a "Treasure Hunt" game with Bill, Lindsey is later accused of theft of gambling winnings by Gelding, which complicates matters in her career. Others in the cast are E.E. Clive ("Spot" Hawkins); Reginald Sharland (Lord Vinya); Natalie Moorehead (Phyllis Mersey-Royas);Charles Irwin (Mr. Chisholm); with Claude King, Doris Lloyd, Phyllis Barry and Tempe Piggot.

For a John Barrymore movie, LONG LOST FATHER is a surprisingly short 63 minutes, with a routine plot that plays more like a second feature/ "B" movie than any of his previous major productions. Helen Chandler, best known today for her role as Mina in DRACULA (Universal, 1931) opposite Bela Lugosi, is the focal point here, having more scenes than Barrymore. Chandler even gets to sing and dance to a little ditty, "It Isn't so Much" during the floor show sequence. Donald Cook, whose image rests mostly playing James Cagney's older brother in THE PUBLIC ENEMY (Warner Brothers, 1931), is reunited with Barrymore, having co-starred with him in THE MAD GENIUS (Warners, 1931). He's acceptable in his role, but no great challenge advancement to his movie career.

Virtually unknown and forgotten among the John Barrymore film library, LONG LOST FATHER was rarely shown on commercial television during the 1960s or 70s late show haven. It did, however, get some TV exposure in 1973-74 on WNJU, Channel 47 (Newark, New Jersey) , a Spanish station where all of its American movie broadcasts, usually from RKO film library, were dubbed in Spanish. In later years, LONG LOST FATHER played on cable channels as American Movie Classics (prior to 1992) and Turner Classic Movies. Fortunately, Barrymore's next film, a comedy titled TWENTIETH CENTURY (Columbia, 1934), opposite Carole Lombard, became a comedy classic ranking one of Barrymore's top film eccentric performances before his slow decline in motion pictures industry due to alcoholism. (**1/2)
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Topaze (I) (1933)
9/10
The Honorable Schoolmaster
1 September 2019
TOPAZE (RKO Radio, 1933), directed by Harry D'Abbadie D'Arrast, from the adaptation by Benn W. Levy, and play by Marcel Pagnol, stars John Barrymore in one of his finest performances. Notable for his versatile performances on both stage and screen, ranging from Shakespearean tragedy to madcap comedies, Barrymore also excelled in playing character types such as this. In the title role, Barrymore plays a naive French teacher (with no French accent) sporting pointy beard and glasses who is taken for a fool. Myrna Loy, who assumed smaller parts in earlier Barrymore/Warner Brothers productions as DON JUAN (1926), WHEN A MAN LOVES (1927), and separate performances in the all-star musical revue, THE SHOW OF SHOWS (1929), and NIGHT FLIGHT (MGM, 1933), gets her chance in a major role opposite the "great profile" to best advantage, especially under a French director, D'Arrast, with the comedic style of wit in the manner of Paramount's own Ernst Lubitsch.

Set in France, the story opens with a snow fall with camera tracking inside the apartment building window on a couple, Baron Philippe De Latour Latour (Reginald Mason) and Coco (Myrna Loy) seated in front of a fireplace enjoying each other's company. At the stroke of 11 p.m., however, Philippe leaves Coco to return home to his wife. In his mansion, Philippe enters, awaking Hortense (Jobyna Howland), and their dog, Max. Philippe finds his wife more upset over the report card grades of their mischievous son, Charlemagne (Jackie Searl), containing zeros in every subject except general knowledge, by his schoolmaster, Topaze, whom Charlemagne calls a Communist. The following morning, Professor Auguste Topaze (John Barrymore) arrives at his place of employment, Stegg Academy, where he resumes his trying day to conduct his lessons to his students while Charlemagne disrupts the class. The lessons are interrupted when Topaze is called to the office of Doctor Stegg (Frank Reicher), minister of education, to meet with him and Charlemagne's concerned mother as to why the son of powerful and richest Baron has failing grades. Regardless of the truth, the dedicated and idealistic teacher, by orders of Mrs. LaTour, is immediately dismissed. Arriving at Coco's apartment to tutor her nephew, Alphonse, Topaze also makes the acquaintance of Philippe, Charlemagne's father and businessman. He intends on making amends of Topaze losing his teaching position by offering him a job as "consultive chemist" for his worthless tonic he intends to make a fortune, calling it "Sparkling Topaze." Unaware that Topaze is being played a fool by endorsing Latour's "soft drink" to make consumers "high," Topaze, working closely with Coco, learns the truth from Doctor Bomg (Luis Alberni) after being called a thief, followed by other unforeseen circumstances.

A well-rounded 79 minute story enacted by fine cast, TOPAZE (title not to be confused with Alfred Hitchcock's 1969 thriller, TOPAZ). relies more on John Barrymore's skills in straight comedy than anything else. Being the whole show here certainly merited him an Actor Academy Award nomination as Best Actor, which didn't happen. Myrna Loy (on loan from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), makes an enduring mistress of a notable statesman who, at one point, gets introduced as Mrs. Topaze by her lover when met face to face by his wife. Though the early ten minute classroom session is lengthy, Barrymore's teachings and coping with Searl's antics sure make this one of the film's highlights. No wonder Searl earned his reputation as a "movie brat."

Seldom shown on commercial television, TOPAZE did earn rediscovery in later years with video cassette in 1990 through CBS Fox tribute to David O. Selznick (who produced the movie), followed by DVD release. Cable television showings include American Movie Classics (1995-1999) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: October 7, 2002) with original RKO Radio logo opening as opposed to Selznick International Pictures logo used in earlier broadcasts and video distributions. Recommended viewing. (***)
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9/10
The Theatrical Troupe
25 August 2019
THE MATINEE IDOL (Columbia, 1928), directed by Frank R. Capra, is a silent comedy/drama taken from the story, "Come Back to Aaron," by Robert S. Lord and Ernest S. Pagano. Starring Bessie Love and Johnnie Walker (the actor, not the drink), it's a pleasing story about actors from different walks of life getting together for a stage play production.

Opening with view of the New York City district of Broadway, "a street that runs north, south and wild," the story introduces Don Wilson (Johnnie Walker), the "king of blackface comedies" who "arrived at stardom with both feet so the shock won't go to his head." Because of his overwork profession, Don decides to take his long overdue rest somewhere in the country. Taking his fellow actors and Arnold WIngate (Ernest Hilliard), stage producer, with him, they drive off only to have the car break down in some small town, forcing the men to push the car over to the nearest garage. With the mechanic gone to attend a stage show, Don and his friends walk over to find him. They approach the theater where "The Bolivar Players" are staging a Civil War melodrama written and directed by Colonel Jasper J. Bolivar (Lionel Bellmore). Because one of the actors is fired for refusing to do labor work, Bolivar's daughter, Ginger (Bessie Love), who also acts in her father's plays, puts up a sign, "Actor wanted. No experience necessary." Not satisfied by the wanna-be actors on line outside her tent, Ginger accidentally approaches Don. Satisfied by the way he says, "I love you," she hires him on the spot. Passing himself off as Harry Mann, the professional actor purposely gives a bad performance, turning the dramatic play into a comedy hit. With Wingate and friends in the audience, Don arranges for Wingate to hire this unprofessional troupe to perform their play on Broadway, using everyone in the cast, including the fired Harry Mann. While in New York, Don hides himself in blackface and costume party mask so not to give himself away to Ginger, and coming out as Harry Mann during rehearsals. Problems arise as theater patrons react differently towards the play than Ginger expected, and Don resuming his guise from Ginger for reasons of his own. Among the other cast members are Sidney D'Albrook (J. Madison Wilderforce); and David Mir (Eric Barrymaine).

Noted as a long lost movie discovered in the 1990s, THE MATINEE IDOL, coming late into the silent era, with plot resembling an early talkie with musical sequences. Johnnie Walker mannerisms as a blackface entertainer immediately makes one think of Al Jolson. Jolson, who's great in comedy, would have excelled in something like this, as opposed to his overly sentimental musical melodramas as SAY IT WITH SONGS (1929). Bessie Love, who would achieve brief popularity following her Academy Award nominated performance triumph in the early sound musical, THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929), is wonderfully cast as Ginger. Of a handful of previous silent movie roles in which she appeared, one would wonder about her other long forgotten and unseen movies of the 1920s. Frank Capra, early in his career as director before achieving his three Academy Award wins as Best Director in the 1930s, keeps the pace moving, blending humor and sentiment to the best degree. Take note that the camera tracking towards theater audiences would capture a young boy picking his nose while watching the stage performance. After viewing Johnnie Walker's leading role here, the next question is, Whatever became of him? The plot to THE MATINEE IDOL was musically revamped as THE MUSIC GOES ROUND (Columbia, 1936) starring Harry Richman and Rochelle Hudson.

With the original theatrical score unavailable, THE MATINEE IDOL features a good new mix of orchestration and piano accompaniment conducted by Robert Israel, whose scoring for silent movies is often great and pleasing to the ear. Other than its availability on DVD including a Frank Capra biographical documentary on the disc flip side, THE MATINEE IDOL at 55 minutes, with few missing scenes, did have some television exposure on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: October 18, 1997). Highly recommended. (***)
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8/10
Wedding of the Year
18 August 2019
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1940), directed by George Cukor, is not a documentary about the largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, but a sophisticated comedy based on the 1939 stage play by Philip Barry as produced by the Theater Guild starring Katharine Hepburn, Joseph Cotten, Van Heflin and Shirley Booth. Due to Hepburn's stage success, the screen adaptation marked her return to the screen following her two 1938 releases of BRINGING UP BABY (RKO Radio) and HOLIDAY (Columbia), each co-starring Cary Grant. As much as many star performers around 1937-38 as Marlene Dietrich or Joan Crawford were labeled "box-office poison" due to mediocre film assignments, many have restored their careers with successful comebacks in 1939. Hepburn's comeback took place a year later, earning her an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress. Teamed opposite for the fourth and final time opposite Cary Grant, it also marked Hepburn's MGM debut as well as her only performance opposite James Stewart.

Plot summary: Two years after her marriage break-up to C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), debutante Tracy Samantha Lord (Katharine Hepburn) goes through the motions of her upcoming wedding plans to George Kitteredge (John Howard), an oil company general manager. Because Dexter feels Kitteredge all wrong for Tracy, he arranges for Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell), society editor and publisher of Spy Magazine, to hire writer, Macaulay Connor (James Stewart), and his assistant photographer, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) to cover the society wedding of Tracy Lord titled "The Philadelphia Story." Dexter's arrangements in getting Connor (who would rather follow his dream in short story writing than working on this assignment) and Elizabeth (who secretly loves Connor) inside the unapproachable Lord manor by passing them off as good friends of Tracy's (unseen) brother, Junius. Problems emerge by the arrival of the uninvited Tracy's ex-husband and his reporting guests; the arrival of her uninvited philandering father (John Halliday) and other unforeseen events that occur the night before the wedding event. Also in the cast are: Roland Young (Uncle Willie); Mary Nash (Margaret Lord, Tracy's mother); Virginia Weidler (Dinah, Tracy's younger sister); and Rex Evans (Thomas, the Butler).

Though THE PHILADELPHIA STORY starts like a screwball comedy, the formatted material that follows becomes basically a re-filmed stage play with limited underscoring. With few scenes set outside the estate, comedy is performed verbally rather than though chases and slapstick actions during its 112 minutes. Hepburn is reinvented here, sporting longer headdress to fit in her Tracy Lord character. Her dramatic moment comes when her seriously-minded father (John Halliday), a philanderer noted for his involvement with Tina Mora, a dancer in New York, saying how Tracy has everything but "an understanding heart," which hurts her deeply. Roland Young offers fine amusements as a womanizing uncle, but there's not enough of him to go around for some big laughs. Virginia Weidler as the eavesdropping younger sister, sings her piano playing rendition of "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady" (introduced by Groucho Marx in AT THE CIRCUS (1939)). Cary Grant, who addresses his on-screen ex-wife simply as "Red" (for her hair color), assumes top-billing over Hepburn, yet it's the third-billed James Stewart, who not only gets more screen time than Grant, but wins an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for his supporting performance.

Personally, I never really understood Stewart's Academy Award win for THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. Henry Fonda's performance in THE GRAPES OF WRATH (20th Century-Fox, 1940) was much more deserving. Other than Stewart going through his usual motions, his drunken scene opposite Dexter (Grant) or expressing his love for Tracy (Hepburn), being highlights, there are much better roles in Stewart's filmography that are more Academy Award worthy (IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946); or SHENANDOAH (1965), as prime examples). If the Academy wanted to nominate Stewart in 1940 to amend their oversight for his MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Columbia, 1939) nomination, maybe his more standard role in THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (MGM, 1940) opposite Margaret Sullavan, would have been a better choice. Ruth Hussey's Best Supporting Actress nomination was acceptable, but lost to Jane Darwell for THE GRAPES OF WRATH. Interestingly, another Stewart (Donald Ogden Stewart), became the only other nomination win here for his Best Original Screenplay category.

Remade by MGM as HIGH SOCIETY (1956) featuring Bing Crosby (Dexter); Grace Kelly (Tracy); Frank Sinatra (Macauley Connor); Celeste Holm (Elizabeth) and John Lund (George), produced in lavish Technicolor with Cole Porter songs, both versions proved popular due to its frequent revivals and star quality value. While HIGH SOCIETY was a successful remake as the original had been a decade earlier, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY resumes its popularity over the years through home video, DVD and many revivals on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. (***1/2).
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8/10
The Public Enemy's Girl
17 August 2019
MARY BURNS, FUGITIVE (Paramount, 1935), directed by William K. Howard, ranks one of the finer prison related themed crime stories from the 1930s. Not as intense as the more famous I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (Warner Brothers, 1932) starring Paul Muni, nor one taken from a stage play as THE LAST MILE (Tiffany, 1932) featuring Preston Foster, MARY BURNS, FUGITIVE stars Sylvia Sidney in the title role of an innocent girl who becomes a victim of circumstance through no fault of her own.

Mary Burns (Sylvia Sidney), owner of a roadside coffee cup shop next door to a garage/gas station in the country, awaits the arrival of Babe Wilson (Alan Baxter), an oil salesman whom she sees every three or four weeks. Upon his arrival, Babe, a man Mary knows little about, proposes marriage to her and wants her to immediately leave everything behind and accompany him to Canada. Minutes later, police arrive to arrest Babe, exposed as a wanted gangster and cold-blooded killer. Shooting his partner, Joe (Norman Willis), so not to reveal the location of the stolen bonds, Babe makes his daring escape, leaving Mary to face arrest. During her trial by jury, Mary is cross-examined by an attorney, revealing she knew nothing about Babe Wilson except that she loved him. Because of poor sufficient evidence, Mary is found guilty and sentenced to serve 15 years in the penitentiary. Unable to get parole for disclosing Wilson's whereabouts to Harper (Wallace Ford) from the parole board, Mary, not wanting to spend any more time behind bars, talks Goldie Gordon (Pert Kelton), her cellmate, into joining her in a well-planned prison break. Now living in a tenement apartment somewhere in the city with Goldie, and flat broke, Mary, alias Alice Brown, takes a chance in obtaining a night job as dishwasher at the Mercy Hospital. While there, Mary meets patient, Barton Powell (Melvyn Douglas), an noted explorer with bandaged eyes due to snow blindness he got in Tibet. He not only likes the sound of her voice, but her coffee as well. When Spike (Brian Donlevy), locates Mary with intentions of taking her back to Babe, Mary escapes to Kansas, only to be pursued by Harper, hoping she will lead him to Babe before any further hold-ups and killings occur. Others in the cast include: Esther Dale (Kate); Daniel L. Haynes (Jeremiah, Powell's butler); Cora Sue Collins (Dorothy); and George Chandler, among others.

An exciting story that keeps viewers interest for its entire 84 minutes. Alan Baxter, in his motion picture debut, gives a promising start to his movie career playing a hooded gangster. Unlike movie tough guys as James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, George Raft and later Humphrey Bogart who all achieved popularity through their wide-range of performances, Baxter never became a top-rated actor in the Alan Ladd mode. Though he did a distinctive way of talking as well as some leading roles, mostly in second-rate features, Baxter appeared mainly in either supporting or minor parts throughout his movie or TV career. Baxter worked again opposite Sylvia Sidney in THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE (1936), but had little to do, especially when the major male co-stars were Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray. Melvyn Douglas, who appears 39 minutes into the start of the story, gives a fine performance as a bickering hospital patient who softens himself to his new assistant, Mary, unaware of her troubled past. Pert Kelton, better known as a sassy blonde in comedies, is surprisingly cast as a tough prison inmate, and does it so well. A pity she didn't get enough stronger roles like this to display her acting ability than just a secondary comedienne. Like many movies of the type, MARY BURNS, FUGITIVE doesn't disappoint. The car radio playing to the tune, "I'm in the Mood for Love" introduced from EVERY NIGHT AT EIGHT (1935), is vocalized by Frances Langford.

Though MARY BURNS, FUGITIVE did have enough commercial television exposure through much of the 1960s and 70s, like Sylvia Sidney's other Paramount film releases of the 1930s, this film remains overlooked and forgotten. Never distributed on video cassette, MARY BURNS, FUGITIVE got its long overdue broadcast on cable television's Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: August 5, 2019). (***)
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Kathleen (1941)
7/10
The Father Trap
11 August 2019
KATHLEEN (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1941), directed by Harold S. Bucquet, stars Shirley Temple, former child star for 20th Century-Fox (1934-1940) in her first and only film for the MGM studio. Though MGM could have cast Temple opposite someone like Mickey Rooney in a backstage musical or a dramatic story opposite Freddie Bartholomew in a horse racing theme similar in theme to NATIONAL VELVET (1944) that later made an overnight star of Elizabeth Taylor, Temple was offered a title role based on an original story by Kay Van Riper dealing with a poor young rich girl striving for the love and attention of her widowed father who is hardly around.

Kathleen Davis (Shirley Temple), is a 12-year-old girl whose mother died at the time of her birth. She lives in a luxurious home surrounded by servants who have looked after her more than her father, John Staunton Davis (Herbert Marshall), who is more away on business trips than spending quality time with his daughter. Kathleen has a strict governess, Mrs. Farrell (Nella Walker), whom she hates. Her only true friend happens to be Mr. Schonet (Felix Bressart), an elderly antique dealer who knows the truth behind Kathleen's imaginary friend, the girl on the hill, whose life echoes that of her own unhappy existence. Further complications ensue when Mr. Davis returns home with Lorraine Bennett (Gail Patrick), his female companion. Though unaware of her father's wedding plans to Miss Bennett, Kathleen takes an immediate dislike to her anyhow. Because of her strong dislike for Mrs. Farrell, Lorraine suggests Kathleen be examined by a child specialist. Doctor Montagu Foster (Lloyd Corrigan) finds nothing wrong with Kathleen but suggests Mrs. Farrell be dismissed and substituted by Doctor A. Martha Kent (Laraine Day), a child psychologist, who could remain with her until September before Kathleen is to be sent away to boarding school. At first Kathleen dislikes the young and down-to-earth lady doctor, but in time, grows fond of her enough to call her "Angel," based on her first name, Angela. While Kathleen hopes for Angela to become her father's new wife, she faces further disappointments when she learns of her father's upcoming wedding plans and extensive honeymoon trip with Lorraine, and having Angela cancel her proposed trip to South America to fill in for the responsibility actually intended for her neglectful father. Others in the cast include: Guy Bellis (Jarvis, the butler); Wade Boteler (The Policeman); and Joe Yule (The Sign Painter).

Though the plot for KATHLEEN could have been a Temple vehicle for 20th Century-Fox during her teenage years, this new MGM edition resumes the traditional Temple format originated by her own studio, that of a daughter of a single parent or an orphan. Temple even gets to have one song number, "Around the Corner," performed during her dream sequence rather than being part of the plot. Now a teenager and no longer a cute little child with the blondish curls, Temple's physical appearance gets reinvented through her darker and longer 1940s hairstyle along with her more mature speaking voice of a teenager. Being the only child for its entire 88 minutes, it would have been interesting had KATHLEEN been slightly altered by having two Temples for the price of one playing twin sisters scheming to get their father to realize his marriage to a woman they dislike would be a mistake. This idea was later put to good use for the Walt Disney classic, THE PARENT TRAP (1961) starring Hayley Mills playing the twin sisters. Having Temple in a dual role might have been too costly and time consuming for a standard movie project, yet might have been more pleasing for Temple fans.

As it stands, KATHLEEN is satisfactory entertainment with moral lesson learned by a father who lets others raise his daughter, who's a stranger to him, rather than by himself. Laraine Day is good as the pretty doctor who fills in as Kathleen's pretend older sister while Felix Bressart gives a likable performance as an elderly grandfather type to Kathleen. Gail Patrick stands out in her "other woman" role she's been doing quite often in other films around this time. As much as Herbert Marshall and Laraine Day do their parts well, it's interesting that in their previous pairing in Alfred Hitchcock's FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (United Artists, 1940) they were cast together playing father and daughter. Though MGM never acquired further services from Temple, the studio would soon get a child star of its own, Margaret O'Brien, the Shirley Temple of the 1940s.

Unlike Temple's films for 20th Century-Fox, KATHLEEN was never distributed to video cassette nor, though currently available on DVD. It was never even part of Shirley Temple film festivals, but did get some exposure during the after midnight hours on the "late-late show" during the 1970s. KATHLEEN often plays on Turner Classic Movies cable channel, the home of the MGM film library. (**1/2)
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7/10
Stopover: Montana
4 August 2019
THE WISTFUL WIDOW OF WAGON GAP (Universal-International, 1947), directed by Charles T. Barton (title not to be confused with similar sounding RUGGLES OF RED GAP (Paramount, 1935) starring Charles Laughton), returns the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to western setting for the first time since RIDE 'EM COWBOY (1942). With the title role going to Marjorie Main, she also has the distinction of having her name placed above the title along with Abbott and Costello. Casting Main opposite the dual is priceless, for that this character actress with the raspy voice and rough exterior, makes a good opposition for the little tubby Costello. Having already played hillbilly parts in MURDER HE SAYS (Paramount, 1945), and the role of a lifetime as Ma Kettle as introduced in THE EGG AND I (Universal, 1947), who else but Marjorie Main could assume the title role and make it so appealing?

Setting the pace with its opening title: "Montana in the days when men were men - with two exceptions ..." the story introduces the two exceptions being Duke Degan (Bud Abbott) and Chester Woolley (Lou Costello), a couple of city slickers traveling to Californian by way of stagecoach. Being household specialty salesmen from Paterson, New Jersey, their coach stops three miles from the nearest town town of Wagon Gap, forcing the twosome to walk the rest of the way. Entering Red Gap, they find the town lacks law and order, consisting of shootings, flying bullets and barroom brawls. After acquiring a couple of shooting irons, Chester's gunshot into the air ends up with the body of notorious gambler, Fred Hawkins, falling by his side. Accused of the killing, Duke and Chester first find themselves with a noose around their necks before Jim Simpson (William Ching) insists of a fair trial. The trial, set in a bar with Judge Benbow (George Cleveland) presiding, with the hanging party as their jurors, Simpson saves the necks of the twosome from a mock trial by reading a Montana law book where the one responsible for the death of the party must be responsible of the obligation of the deceased, the one being Chester. No sooner do Duke and Chester meet up their responsibility by ending up on the farm of the Widow Hawkins (Marjorie Main), and her seven unruly children: Juanita (Audrey Young), Matt (Bill Clauson), Billy (Bill O'Leary), Sarah (Pamela Wells), Jefferson (Jimmie Bates), Lincoln (Phil Dunn), and Sally (Diane Florentine). The widow takes a liking to Chester to become her next husband, while Duke is assigned as the family guardian. To make sure these men don't sneak away, the widow assigns her vicious German shepherd dog, Wolf, stand guard in their bedroom. Because Chester refuses to marry and become the new father, the widow has him doing all the household chores, forcing Chester to come late for his meals, eaten by the lazy Duke and the Hawkins brew. Later, Chester becomes the town sheriff, using the widow's family photo as protection against those going against his ruling. Further complications ensue as Duke spreads rumor about a railroad going through the widow's land that would make her the richest woman of Wagon Gap. Will Duke and Chester ever get to make it to California? Other cast members include: Gordon Jones (Jake Frame); Peter Thompson (Phil); Glenn Strange ("Lefty") and Dewey Robinson. Audrey Young, as the eldest of the Hawkins children, sings "There's Plenty More Than Time" in the Round-Up Saloon sequence,but not in its entirety.

A solid 78 minute Abbott and Costello comedy where their scenes are nearly stolen by Main's performance, the team offers some of their usual gag material as highlights, including a frog jumping from one bowl of soup to another, disrupting the dining area. Their cheating card game, originally performed by Bud and Lou in BUCK PRIVATES (1941), is repeated, with the only difference being performed by Abbott and Main instead of Costello. Other than chasing scenes, usually found in their comedies, Costello playing sheriff requiring respect from a town of toughs is typical, yet amusingly done.

Though not exceptionally a great comedy, THE WISTUL WIDOW OF WAGON GAP, is certainly fun to watch. It's a wonder what would have been had Abbott, Costello and Marjorie Main joined forces together in her popular "Ma and Pa Kettle" film series? Seeing this movie comes close to such an idea. Costello sharing antics with Pa Kettle (Percy Kilbride) would have been hilarious. Formerly distributed on video cassette, currently available on DVD. (**1/2)
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7/10
Judge Hardy's Family in Society
28 July 2019
THE HARDY'S RIDE HIGH (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939), directed by George B. Seitz, marks the sixth installment to the now popular "Hardy Family" movie series, and the first of its three 1939 installments. A standard production in every sense involving the family's moral lesson as to whether or not they could be happy after inheriting a large fortune or being just plain folks from a the small town of Carvel.

Following a courtroom opening where Judge James K. Hardy (Lewis Stone) solves a troubled marriage involving Caleb Bowen (Donald Briggs) coping with his wife, Susan's (Marsha Hunt) spending extravagance, Hardy is soon visited by a lawyer, Jonas Bronell (George Irving), with surprising news that Hardy has inherited $2 million because of he being the great-great grandson of James Standish Leeds, a well-known figure of the War of 1812. The middle-class family, involving the judge's wife, Emily (Fay Holden), daughter, Marian (Cecilia Hardy), their 16-year-old football playing son, Andrew (Mickey Rooney), and their matronly Aunt Milly Forrest (Sara Haden), accompany the judge on an airplane bound for Detroit, Michigan, where the judge is to prove himself liable of the inheritance. Taking up residence in the Leeds mansion where they are waited on by family butler, Dobbs (Halliwell Hobbes), and living the life of how rich people live. Their new way of living takes its toll, especially on the children. Aunt Milly, the spinster schoolteacher, wanting to enjoy life before old age sets in for her, begins courting Terry B. Archer (Minor Watson), a middle-aged gentleman she earlier met on the airplane, with the hope their courship will lead to marriage. Philip Westcott (John King), the adopted son of the Leeds family, shows the family the town, in spite the fact that he may that through Judge Hardy, he may lose the fortune entitled him. Philip even takes Andy to the Paradise Club where the girl-happy teenager gets introduced to Consuela McNish (Virginia Grey), an older chorus girl, and arranges for the young man to spend the evening together in her apartment. As for Marion, she goes on a spending spree buying an expensive dress for herself and charging it to her father's account. After returning home to Carvel, problems arise when the judge discovers evidence that he may or may not rightfully be entitled to the family fortune. Aside from Ann Rutherford returning in a few scenes playing Polly Benedict, Andy's girlfriend, others in the cast include: John T. Murray (Don Davis, the Druggist); Aileen Pringle (Miss Booth, the Saleswoman); Erville Alderson (Bill, Hardy's Bailiff); and William T. Orr (Dick Bannersly, Polly's gentleman caller she met while on vacation to use to get Andy jealous), among others.

While the "Hardy Family" series would be a great introduction for young MGM starlets, THE HARDY'S RIDE HIGH promises no film debuts nor introductions of any kind. It basically consists of Marsha Hunt and Virginia Grey, who have been in the movie business for quite some time, assuming smaller roles for this entry. With the story focusing on how money can change a simple-minded family to living the lifestyle of the rich and famous, it finds Aunt Milly becoming glamorous with her agreeable dressing and modern hairstyle to impress her new gentleman caller; Marion and her mother having their breakfast in bed served by their butler; while Andy dresses up in tuxedo and top hat pretending to be a "big shot" in an expensive night club, only to come to reality through his father's reasoning, notably for not smoking or booze drinking. At one point, Andy buys a cigarette case, mistaking its cost of $175 to $1.75. Even briefly the sensible judge nearly lets the money get the best of him before contemplating its consequence if he goes through with his intentions,and so much more. As much as the story and acting are delivered in an entertaining manner, especially by Sara Haden in a change of pace by becoming glamorous and having more to do plot-wise than usual, what "Andy Hardy" movie would be complete without any "man to man" talks between father and son?

Though never distributed on video cassette, THE HARDY'S RIDE HIGH has been placed on DVD disc and often plays in cable television's Turner Classic Movies. Next in the series, ANDY HARDY GETS SPRING FEVER (1939), and more teenage situations as well, (***)
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8/10
Springtime in Carvel
20 July 2019
ANDY HARDY GETS SPRING FEVER (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939), directed by W.S. Van Dyke II, marks the seventh installment to the "Judge Hardy's Family/Andy Hardy" series, and second film of three film releases of 1939. Being the first in the series directed by someone other than George B. Seitz, it also marked the second in the series bearing "Andy Hardy" in its movie title, following LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938). By this time, it was the teenage son, Andy, who becomes the center of attention rather than the fatherly judge, who is always around for those "man to man" talks with his son whenever there's a problem. For this entry, it's not Andy who gets into situations he must handle, but his father as well. Though Andy doesn't get a fever of sickness during the spring, its term "spring fever" is actually in reference to falling in love, which happens in most cases in the spring. This time, Andy has fallen in love with someone other than a girl of his own age.

The story opens traditionally in the courtroom where Judge James K. Hardy (Lewis Stone) is fining a young man $10 for kissing a young lady in a parked car. Because it's spring, he suspends the fine. In his chambers, Hardy is visited by James Willett (Stanley Andrews), a chemist, and Mark Hansen (Byron Foulger), his partner, who inform him that his aquaduct property, consisting of a mineral used to making aluminum in its soil, is valuable. Hardy later involves friends and associates to take part in the investments for the property, and soon permits his daughter, Marion (Cecilia Parker), to work as secretary for these two gentlemen, who now have a business office in town. As Hardy's 17-year-old son, Andrew (Mickey Rooney), he becomes jealous of his girlfriend, Polly Benedict's (Ann Rutherford) involvement with the extremely tall Lieutenant Charles Copley (Robert Kent) of the United States Navy, Andy's concerns are easily forgotten when the girl crazy Carvel High School teenager takes a "romantic" interest in his substitute dramatics teacher, Rose Meredith (Helen Gilbert). As Andrew's original story, "Adrift in Tahiti" becomes the subject of the upcoming school play, he not only helps with its staging with cast members, but soon steps over his bounds by falling in love with his 23-year-old teacher and wanting to marry her. With this being a worry for the judge, more problems arise when the wise old man carries a burden of guilt as to whether or not he's been swindled out of the $17,000 he's given to those two men. Also in the cast are series regulars, Fay Holden (Emily Hardy); Sara Haden (Aunt Milly Forrest); Addison Richards (George Benedict); Erville Alderson (Henry, the Bailiff); and Georgie Breakston ("Beezy" Anderson). Terry Kilburm, who played Tiny Tim in A CHRISTMAS CAROL (MGM, 1938) starring Reginald Owen as Scrooge, appears as one of Andy's younger classmates, Harmon Higgenbotham Jr., better known as "Stinkin' Plastor"; and Sidney Miller, a semi-regular of the series, appearing briefly as Sidney.

An agreeable "Hardy Family" production that contains two situations for the price of one, first the judge's problem, then the major one involving Andy's crush on his schoolteacher. How these situations are handled make this installment worth viewing. The teacher in question is played by an attractive young woman named Helen Gilbert in her movie debut. While the "Hardy Series"has become a good introduction for its MGM starlets that included popular likes of Esther Williams or Kathryn Grayson in later years, Helen Gilbert remains unknown and someone who would become labeled in "Whatever became of ? ..." listing. Gilbert did appear in other film productions for MGM (A segment in the "Doctor Kildare" series in 1939 for example), other studios and later television through the 1950s, but to no lasting appeal. ANDY HARDY GETS SPRING FEVER shows her off at best advantage as the mature speaking teacher with personal problems of her own. Fans of the series would enjoy this one.

Formerly available on video cassette and later DVD, this and the additional 15 segments of the series, can be found on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. Next in the series, JUDGE HARDY AND SON (1939) (***)
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Liliom (1930)
8/10
The Man Who Came Back
14 July 2019
LILIOM (Fox Films, 1930), directed by Frank Borzage, stars Charles Farrell in the title role taken from a famous play by Fernec Molnar. With some silent screen adaptations based on this material, including A TRIP TO PARADISE (Metro, 1921) starring Bert Lytell, LILIOM became its first sound edition. Popularized years later as the Broadway musical, CAROUSEL (1945), later adapted as a 1956 motion picture, this early screen edition offers romance and sentiment in the Frank Borzage tradition, and often hailed as a motion picture of great promise weakened by the performance by its leading actor.

Opening title: "This play is the love story of Julie, a serving maid, and Liliom, a merry-go-round barker. Liliom gropes and struggles through life and death, and even beyond death, ever seeking escape from himself, while Julie's love for him endures always." Set in Budapest, Hungary, Julie (Rose Hobart), works as a servant girl accompanied by her friend, Marie (Mildred Van Dorn). As much as Julie turns down dates with a caring young carpenter (Walter Abel), Julie's sole interest is Liliom Zadowsky (Charles Farrell), an amusement park merry-go-round barker and ladies man. Although their union on the carousel is innocent, Liliom stirs up jealousy from his domineering employer, Madame Muskat (Estelle Taylor). She soon warns Julie to stay away from Liliom, who enters the scene by telling Madame Maskat that he does what he pleases. Losing his job, Liliom walks away with Julie to the pub where he drinks away his sorrows. Three months later, Liliom and Julie, now married, struggle through life's hardships. Liliom, still unemployed and having the reputation of being a lazy loafer by neighbors, turns down offers to return to Madame Muskat in favor of joining forces with Buzzard (Lee Tracy) to commit a robbery and use the stolen money for a better life in America, especially after learning that Julie is going to have a baby. Their plot of robbery fails. With Buzzard captured by the police, Liliom chooses the easy way out by taking his own life. On a train bound for Paradise, the soul of Liliom meets with the Chief Magistrate (H.B. Warner) who offers him a second chance in life to return to Earth. After serving ten years "in the hot place," he is given temporary freedom to visit with his daughter (Dawn O'Day). What Liliom does should determine his fate with destiny. Also in the cast are Lillian Elliott (Aunt Hulda); Bert Roach (Wolf Feiser); and Harvey Clark (The Angel Gabriel). Child actress, Dawn O'Day, would later become professionally known as Anne Shirley following to first leading role as ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (RKO, 1934).

As much as Charles Farrell's popularity rested upon his frequent pairing opposite Janet Gaynor (12 films in all), it's a wonder how successful he would have become acting opposite other young actresses instead. Having already done solo work opposite other leading ladies as Maureen O'Sullivan or Joan Bennett, Farrell is given Rose Hobart, making her movie debut. Farrell's leading role here, sporting dark curly hair and mustache, might have done it for him, but his weak voice was somewhat against him. Playing a similar character as an egotistical young man with a heart of gold in his first role opposite Gaynor in SEVENTH HEAVEN (1927), LILIOM, certainly has the makings of another Gaynor and Farrell romancer. Had Spencer Tracy assumed the role of Liliom instead, chances are the movie would have been a hit since Tracy acting ability seemed to be a better fit than Farrell. It's been critically said that the 1934 French-made adaptation of LILIOM starring Charles Boyer to be far superior, and possibly so. For the role of Julie, Rose Hobart does a commendable job. Her performance as a loyal wife with eternal love for her husband is certainly believable, as opposed to the pretty Mildred Van Dorn, whose weak acting and method of speaking limits the movie's credibility.

For an early 1930 talkie, LILIOM looks somewhat advanced in the European cinema sense, especially with its Heavenly futuristic scenes that make this movie seem more like a 1935 release instead. Aside from dark visuals of "film noir" style and underscoring, the train express leading to the clouds of Heaven with lavish settings is quite impressive. Aside from OUTWARD BOUND (Warners, 1930), the Heavenly theme and spiritual guidance would be done repeatedly a decade later starting with Robert Montgomery in HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (Columbia, 1941), which set the pace for other fantasies of this nature to come.

Unavailable for viewing in decades, LILIOM, has been resurrected through its distribution to DVD as a tribute to Academy Award winning director, Frank Borzage. For those familiar with the movie musical version of CAROUSEL (1956) starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, may want to take a look at this dramatic form of the same story and compare. (**)
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7/10
Show Boat Antics
14 July 2019
THE NAUGHTY NINETIES (Universal, 1945), directed by Jean Yarbrough, stars the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in their first film in period setting, the 1890s. Somewhat inspired by Edna Ferber's SHOW BOAT, that was later musicalized on Broadway and the basis of two (1929 and 1936) screen adaptations, THE NAUGHTY NINETIES doesn't provide memorable melodies as "Ole Man River" nor its passage of time elements, but mostly sight gags dominating plot and songs to better advantage for Abbott and Costello's world of comedy.

Following the original screenplay by Edmund L. Hartmann, John Grant, Edmund Joseph and Hal Fimbers, the photo-play introduces Captain Sam Jackson (Henry Travers), head of The River Queen Show Boat with entertainment suitable for family and children. Along with his daughter, Caroline (Lois Collier), who sings and acts in its stage productions, Jackson's company includes lead actor, Dexter Broadhurst (Bud Abbott), and his bumbling assistant, Sebastian Dinwiddie (Lou Costello). After the boat docks in St. Louis, Captain Jackson, having encountered Bonita Farrell (Rita Johnson), Crawford (Alan Curtis) and Bailey (Joseph Sawyer), who have recently run out of town by the sheriff (John Hamilton), a trio of card sharks, unknown to him their attempt on acquiring The River Queen and turning it into a gambling casino. While at The Gilded Cage, Captain Jackson loses his River Queen to those crooks, now acting as his new partners. Holding a $15,000 note against the show boat, it is up to Broadhurst and Sebastian to save the River Queen from further ruin. Also in the cast are Joe Kirk (The Croupier); Jack Norton (The Drunk); Sam McDaniel, Edward Gargan, Donald Kerr, among others.

New songs by Edgar Fairchild and Jack Rose include: "The Show Boat is Coming to Town," "My Blushin' Rosie" (by Edgar Smith and John Stromberg); "On a Sunday Afternoon" (sung by Lois Collier); Minstrel Show tap dance; "I Leave My Opium for You," "No Luck Malone," "I Can't Get You Out of My Mind" (sung by Lois Collier); and "Heaven" (performed during the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" segment featuring Lou Costello playing Little Eva). Though set in the 1890s, Lois Collier's rendition and orchestration to "I Can Get You Out of My Mind" definitely belongs to the modern era of 1945.

Of all the Abbott and Costello comedies, THE NAUGHTY NINETIES contains more individual comedy routines than usual. Whether these gags enacted were originated from vaudeville skits or earlier motion pictures featuring other notable comic performers, the try and true routine best associated with Abbott and Costello is their one and only "Who's on First?" performed here in its entirety. Taking place 39 minutes into the story, this seven minute enactment remains fresh and funny. Though the team performed this routine on radio and later television, they used it briefly for their debut film, ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS (1940). The segment where Costello's Sebastian auditions by singing "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" and mistaking Abbott's Broadhurst behind him giving orders to his stage crew and not to him, was similarly enacted by Louise Fazenda and Teddy Hart in READY, WILLING AND ABLE (Warner Brothers, 1937) starring Ruby Keeler. The "life saver" bit was earlier done by Groucho Marx to Thelma Todd in HORSE FEATHERS (Paramount, 1932), while the mirror routine between Costello and Joseph Sawyer is lifted from Groucho and Harpo Marx's classic DUCK SOUP (Paramount, 1933). Let's not overlook the head clunking gag originated from Harold Lloyd's classic, THE KID BROTHER (Paramount, 1927), and the "cat meal" sequence borrowed from The Three Stooges. Amazing how much gag material got squeezed into this 76 minutes.

While not exactly a comedy masterpiece, THE NAUGHTY NINETIES is a delight to fans of the comedy team, particularly their "Who's on First?" Along with frequent commercial television broadcasts from the 1960s to 1980s, THE NAUGHTY NINETIES, formerly distributed on video cassette and cable television's American Movie Classics (2000-2001), is available on DVD as part of Universal's Abbott and Costello classic film collection. (**1/2)
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8/10
Abbott and Costello in College
7 July 2019
HERE COME THE CO-EDS (Universal, 1945), directed by Jean Yarbrough, stars the comedy team of Abbott and Costello in their one and only college musical-comedy. Having appeared in earlier comedies focusing on military themes, westerns, murder mysteries and the Hollywood sound stages, it would be a matter of time before Abbott and Costello would join forces with other comedy teams as The Marx Brothers, The Ritz Brothers or Laurel and Hardy to appear in a college setting movie theme. With its formatted material of comedy antics and musical interludes in the mode of the Marx Brothers at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or some violent gags in the class of The Three Stooges, HERE COME THE CO-EDS provides Abbott and Costello with their familiar routines for this above average comedy with some below average song numbers.

The story opens at the Miramar Ball Room where "Slats" McCarthy (Bud Abbott), a publicity agent for his sister, Molly (Martha O'Driscoll), and friend, Oliver Rackenbush (Lou Costello) are employed. Oliver, a dance escort, through no fault of his own, becomes responsible for the trio losing their jobs following one fiasco after another. Later, Larry Benson (Donald Cook), dean of Bixby College for Girls, who, after reading a magazine article on Molly publicized by Slats, offers her a scholarship to his college. She accepts, having Slats and Oliver accompany her with their new jobs as assistant caretakers under Strangler Johnson (Lon Chaney Jr.). During the course of the story, Oliver becomes involved with co-ed Patty Gayle (Peggy Ryan), while Benson struggles to improve the college with more up-to-date methods as opposed to the old-fashioned thinking by Jonathan Kirkland (Charles Dingle), chairman of the Board of Regents, who also holds a mortage to the college. Kirkland's daughter, Diane (June Vincent), who loves the dean, notices his attention leaning towards Molly. Because Kirkland intends on closing the college, the co-eds, along with Slats and Oliver, hope on raising money needed by holding a basketball tournament between Bixby and Carlton College. However crooked gamblers enter the scene with unfavorable methods of their own.

With music and lyrics by Jack Brooks and Edgar Fairchild, songs include: "Some Day We Will Remember," "The Magic Violin," "Let's Play House" (performed amusingly by Peggy Ryan and Lou Costello); "I Don't Care If I Never Dream Again," "Hooray for Our Side," "Jumping All Saturday Night" (sung and performed by Peggy Ryan and co-eds); and "Hooray for Our Side." With specialty numbers performed by Phil Spitalni's Moment of the Hour and His All Girl Orchestra, with Evelyn Lay Klein and her Magic Violin, these instrumental moments bring class to the film, including Evelyn Klein's talented but slow tempo violin playing bog down the film's fast pacing. Only Peggy Ryan's jive number, "Jumping All Saturday Night," which was often cut from commercial television broadcasts in order to fit in a 90 minute movie into a 90 minute time slot with commercials, lifen things up a bit, though its long stretch of unscored tap dancing would be impossible to appreciate for radio listening audiences in the story.

HERE COME THE CO-EDS gets off to a rousing start of priceless comedy during its first ten minutes. Lou's encounter at the night club with a jealous near-sited husband (Richard Lane); being its highlight. Other routines include Costello's dice swallowing; Abbott and Costello's "Jonah and the Whale" routine that was introduced in their debut film, ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS (1940); hiding a girl in their dormitory room from Johnson; Costello's struggle eating oyster stew; Costello's wrestling match with the Masked Marvel; the climatic basketball game between Bixby and the Amazons, and a chase scene with Abbott and Costello on a runaway sailboat on a busy street, among others. The foot in the dough scene is quite extensive in length, without any resolved conclusion. Lon Chaney Jr., taking time away from his horror film ventures, makes a good advisory for Lou Costello. It's interesting that Abbott doesn't take part of the wrestling match scene. Instead, Peggy Ryan's character steps in cheering him on with instructions instead. Because of its over length, the film appears to have been heavily edited, especially where some scenes seem to suddenly fade in the middle or near-ending sequences.

As much as HERE COME THE CO-EDS is overall satisfactory entertainment, only the Spitalni interludes slow down the pacing. HERE COME THE CO-EDS, which was formerly available on video cassette and broadcast American Movie Classics in 2001, can be found on DVD for fans of the comedy team to sit back and enjoy. (***)
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7/10
Will Rogers Spoofs the Movies
6 July 2019
BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES (Pathe, 1924), a Hal Roach comedy directed by Roy Clemens, stars the legendary Will Rogers in a 20 minute comedy short spoofing the movies decades before comedienne Carole Burnett would do the same in her hour-long variety show in the 1970s. Unlike most short subjects containing a story, comedy and chase scenes, this edition is a parody of silent movies of the day.

BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES opens with Will Rogers stepping out on stage from behind the curtain where he introduces himself and what movie viewers are about to see as spoken through title cards while doing his fancy rope work at the same time. Rogers talks about popular movies of the day before going through his own performance from some of those films. First comes BLOOD AND SAND (Paramount, 1922), where Rogers steps into Rudolph Valentino's role as Rufus, the famous matador, featuring a bullfight scene with a surprise finish. Moments later, Rogers spoofs swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks as ROBIN HOOD (United Artists, 1922) doing his bow-and-arrow tricks along with jumping about in slow-motion form. Rogers then goes into the melodramatic story of OVER THE HILL (Fox, 1921) where he takes a serious tearjerker to an amusing climax. The last of his brief movie satire concludes with Rogers imitating Ford Sterling and Charles Hall imitating Charlie Chaplin from Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops comedies, featuring the typical chasing scenes that have made the Keystone Kops so popular. Taking part of these projects are Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Earl Mohan and Noah Young.

The organ scored BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES is possibly the only known Will Rogers film from the silent era to become available on television. It's most notable broadcasts was a sole showing on New York City's WNET, Channel 13, in 1973, and again on that same station as part of its 13-week summer series of "The Silent Years" (1975) hosted by Lillian Gish, following the feature-length Tom Mix western RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (Fox, 1925). Before the conclusion to the 90 minute showing of "The Silent Years," there were also film clips of Rogers doing imitations of two most relatively known movie cowboys of the silent film era, William S. Hart and Tom Mix, before Gish herself closes the show and what's to be presented on the series next week.

Will Rogers did a handful of silent shorts and feature films during the 1920s, but aside from his stage work, notably those under producer Florenz Ziegfeld for his annual "Ziegfeld Follies," Rogers became extremely popular in talkies of the 1930s in many comedy-dramas for Fox Film Studios before his untimely death by 1935. Though BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES may not stand the test of time either for Rogers or the unfamiliar movie titles he is spoofing for contemporary viewers, taking a look at Rogers himself, even in a silent film, is an interesting aspect to his work, style and legend as a whole. (**)
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Vanity Fair (1932)
6/10
The Unfaithful
23 June 2019
VANITY FAIR (Allied Pictures, 1932), directed by Chester Franklin, is labeled in the opening credits as "a modern dress adaptation to BECKY SHARP by William Thackeray." With classic literature transformed to the screen dating back to the silent film era, VANITY FAIR, being one of them in 1915 and 1923, marks the first sound edition to the classic novel, bringing forth the unlikely candidate of the youthful Myrna Loy (courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) in this "poverty-row" production. Somewhat miscast in some respects, Loy managed to rise above material regardless of her softer appeal to such better suited actresses as British born actress, Heather Angel, for example, who might have made adventuress Becky Sharp a bit acceptable in character portrait.

In a limousine bound for London, Amelia Sedley (Barbara Kent), a rich college girl, accompanied by her best friend and classmate, Becky Sharp (Myrna Loy). Having no family of her own, Becky is invited to spend Christmas with Amelia and her family. After making the acquaintance with her parents, George (Herbert Bunston) and Rita Sedley (Mary Forbes), Becky is introduced to Amelia's brother, Joseph (Billy Bevan), having just arrived from his trip in India. Regardless of his overweight, Becky takes a fancy to him. After inviting Becky to spend the weekend with him in Brighton, Becky "accepts" this as a wedding proposal, thus scaring Joseph off to Scotland, leaving Becky a farewell note through Amelia. With Joseph out of the way, Becky takes an interest in Amelia's fiance, George Osborne (Walter Byron). Seeing them alone together has Mrs. Sedley advising Becky to leave. Accepting a position as governess to the two daughters of Sir Pitt Crawley (Lionel Bellmore), amiddle-aged man whose wife has been deadly ill for ten years. Sir Pitt comes on to Becky, though she shows more interest in Pitt's sophisticated adult son, Rawdon (Conway Tearle) instead. After Pitt's wife dies, he goes quickly to Becky to propose, only to discover she has married his son instead. Angry and bitter, Pitt leaves Rawdon penniless and orders the couple out of his home. On their own, Becky and Rawdon struggle financially, avoiding debt collectors, and cheating at card games to acquire extra money. After Amelia's husband, George, who Becky has been seeing secretly, dies in a fox hunting accident, Amelia begins her new relationship with Dobbins (Anthony Bushnell), her former beau. Having served time in prison, Rawdon returns home to find Becky alone with the Marquis of Steyne (Montagu Love). Learning he's been supporting her financially with expensive jewelry, Rawdon orders Becky out of his life. Living in Paris, Becky meets with one of her former suitors at the gambling casino, only to later see herself the way others have been for years. Others in the cast include Lilyan Irene (Polly), Tom Ricketts (Parker, the Butler), and Elspeth Dudgeon (The Housekeeper).

In spite of its slow packing and visuals that make VANITY FAIR look more like an early 1929 talkie, the film is made interesting through the presence of Myrna Loy. How she got this assignment to appear in an independent production as Becky Sharp remains a mystery. Though Loy starts off by speaking in British accept early in the story, this is soon abandoned for more natural speaking flair. Except for a couple of scenes, VANITY FAIR lacks background scoring. With other classic literature turned motion pictures by minor studios as Monogram's OLIVER TWIST (1933) and JANE EYRE (1934), major studios soon got into the act with Charles Dickens' GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Universal, 1934) and DAVID COPPERFIELD (MGM, 1935) before RKO Radio revamped VANITY FAIR three years later as BECKY SHARP (1935) starring Miriam Hopkins. Aside from resuming the original Thackeray story back to 19th Century England, BECKY SHARP went a step further as being produced in the newly formed three-strip Technicolor. Even with some dull stretches and not being a scene-by-scene remake, BECKY SHARP (1935) definitely was an improvement over VANITY FAIR (1932).

Virtually forgotten and out of television circulation since the 1950s, VANITY FAIR has come out of oblivion through its distribution decades later on both home video and DVD process. Initially clocked at 73 minutes, beware of shorter 67 minute DVD editions using a new opening that reads: Screen Craft Pictures Present "INDECENT: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF BECKY SHARP" starring Myrna Loy. Following this 1932 production, Loy returned to MGM, where she truly belonged. (**)
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Broadway (1929)
8/10
Night Club Murder
17 June 2019
BROADWAY (Universal, 1929), directed by Paul Fejos, is a Carl Laemmle Jr. Super Production, and it shows. Taken from the hit play by George Abbott and Philip Dunning, BROADWAY came at the time when movies were equipped with new sound technology, putting the silent films to rest. Of the many early talkies from 1929, BROADWAY proved to be one of the finer productions produced due to the Hungarian director's futuristic visuals and offbeat camera angles that make this musical/drama appear more modern than some of the other talkies primitive styles. With a handful of "Broadway" titles used for its early musicals, there are those that were backstage themes. BROADWAY is categorized as a "night club" story with production numbers and murder story combined. Headed by unfamiliar marque names to contemporary viewers, Glenn Tryon, playing the hoofer/singer, gets feature billing supported by actresses known for their silent screen performances as Evelyn Brent, on loan from Paramount, and Merna Kennedy, best known as Charlie Chaplin's co-star in his silent comedy classic, THE CIRCUS (United Artists, 1928).

BROADWAY gets its stunning visual opening with a studio set air view of New York City's Broadway district of glittering lights before a huge, half-naked man walks through the streets superimposed under the title cards, pouring a drink into his glass and sprinkling it over Broadway. Next scene resumes its camera tracking through the Broadway district of theaters, movie houses and hotels before settling into the Paradise Night Club managed by Nick Verdis (Paul Porcasi). Roy Lane (Glenn Tryon) and Billie Moore (Merna Kennedy) are introduced as a dance team for the club. Steve Crandall (Robert Ellis), a bootlegger, assisted by Dolph (Arthur Housman), have a run-on in the cabaret office with gangster, James "Scar" Edwards (Leslie Fenton) who has been robbed of a truckload of liquor by Steve's gang, leading Crandall to shoot and kill Scar in the back. Scar and Dolph carry Scar, passing as an unconscious drunk, outside the club as witnessed by Roy and Billie, onto the back of a parked truck where they cover the body with a blanket. Unknown to Crandall, Scar happens to be married to Pearl (Evelyn Brent), one of the chorus girls in the show. When she learns of his death, she vows vengeance on his murder. During the course of the story, Dan McCorn (Thomas Jackson), having discovered the body a few blocks away, and having his suspicions, enters the scene with investigations. Others in the cast are: Otis Harlan (Andrew "Porky" Thompson); George Davis (Joe, the Waiter); Marion Lord (Lil Rice); and Gus Arnheim and his Orchestra. Though some sources list character actor, Fritz Feld, to appear as Mose Levitt, his name is not in either of the cast or visible in the final print. Thomas Jackson stands out as the detective with his overly familiar slow-speaking tone sleuth.

The songs by Con Conrad, Archie Gottler and Sidney Mitchell include: "Hitting the Ceiling" (sung by Glenn Tryon), "Hot Footin' It," (featuring Glenn Tryon dressed as a child); "Which Came First? The Chicken or the Egg" (performed by Tryon dressed as a school teacher); Tap Dance Number; "Sing a Little Love Song" (sung by Tryon and Merna Kennedy); "Broadway" and "Hitting the Ceiling" (reprise/Technicolor finale). The production numbers are as impressive as the film's visual opening, especially with its Art-Decco sets. They are not as stunning as some of the latter musicals of the 1940s, 1950s and beyond, but often start with Glenn Tryon walking down a long and wide pathway introducing his songs as the camera captures him many feet above the stage and looking down at him. The first song opening occurs 20 minutes into the start of the film. With the songs interlude not performed in its entirely, often interrupted by cutaways and dialogue by other actors, it is evident that the plot element comes as its main factor.

Glenn Tryon, who physical appearance makes one think of either a teenage Frankie Darro or cowboy actor, Guinn Williams, gives a good account of his portrayed character. Virtually forgotten, and having performed on stage and the silent screen in the twenties appearing in both short and feature films, BROADWAY should have paved the way for greater success, but didn't. Eventually Tryon became director before returning to acting in the 1940s, mostly in minor roles before disappearing from view. BROADWAY was later adapted for the screen again by Universal in 1942 starring George Raft, Pat O'Brien and Janet Blair, with new songs and updated story, but without those visuals and art-decco sets that have made the 1929 original so memorable.

Fortunately a film survivor, this 105 minute production was placed on DVD. To date, BROADWAY has never been shown on cable television, which is a shame because the film as a whole remains as impressive today as it must have been in 1929. (***)
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Night Flight (1933)
8/10
Fly By Night
9 June 2019
NIGHT FLIGHT (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1933), directed by Clarence Brown, may have that "B" sounding movie title to it, but was actually another one of the studio's big all-star productions, following the pattern of GRAND HOTEL (1932) and DINNER AT EIGHT (1933), both featuring the Barrymore brothers, John and Lionel. John and Lionel also appear in NIGHT FLIGHT, with the able support of MGM's top performers of the day including Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy in their individual episodes for one solid 85 minute film. Taken from the 1931 novel by Abtoine de Saint-Exupery, there's no lavish scale MGM production, except for its simple story based on actual occurrence that takes place in a 24-hour time-frame around and outside the airport.

Following a lengthy forward passage which tells that "This picture is based on an incident from the archives of South American aviation," the story opens in Rio De Janiero where a sign is placed on home doors reading "Infantile Paralysis, Keep Out." A worried mother (Helen Jerome-Eddy) comforts her desperately ill son (Buster Phelps) resting in bed, with the possibily her little boy will become another fatality. Doctor DeCosta (Irving Pichel), in need of a serum that will help save the boy, telephones to learn the nearest place to obtain it is from a hospital in Santiago, Chile. Desperately needing the serum to arrive by noon the next day, the hospital notifies the Trans-Andean European Air Mail to have the packaged and addressed serum flown directly to the City Hospital in Brazil. Because the airline having been in business for five years with prompt accuracy in arrivals and no known mishaps, its stern airline director, Riviere (John Barrymore) assures the serum will arrive on time without fail. Against the objections of Daudet (C. Henry Gordon), the company president, Riviere is determined to succeed, even if it means heavy fines for his pilots, with no excuses accepted. With dense fog where visibility is impossible, Robineau (Lionel Barrymore), airline inspector, finds Riviere to be driving his pilots to a blink of suicide assignments simply to fulfill his position as head man. The first pilot, August Pellerin (Robert Montgomery), a ladies man, leaves both his girlfriend (Dorothy Burgess) and Buenos Aires to deliver the serum to his connection at another airfield. Jules Fabian (Clark Gable), pilot of Plane No. 603, and his wireless operator, Guimet (Leslie Fenton) leave for their destination, flying through dangerous weather patterns of high winds through mountains and dense fog. Before long, they are lost, behind schedule and very low on fuel. Others involved in this high tense melodrama are Madame Simone (Helen Hayes), Fabian's wife, awaiting patiently for her husband's return so they can have dinner together at home; and a Brazilian pilot (William Gargan) who must take his night flight to deliver the serum before heading for Europe, leaving his wife (Myrna Loy) to await home during those long days he'a away, alone, worrying about his safety. The supporting players consist of Ralf Harolde (Pilot No. 5); Frank Conroy (The Radio Operator); and Maurice Black (The Nightclub Manager).

Though not in the same league as some of the now classic all-star productions, NIGHT FLIGHT is an interesting enough presentation more for its star power than its airbourn story. John Barrymore gives a good account of a forceful cigarette smoking air director who never leaves his office. One scene has him firing a long-time employee (Harry Beresford) for one mistake, indicating that the official head must continue to show strength rather than weakness to his staff. Helen Hayes has a few dramatic motions while awaiting for her husband's return while Myrna Loy (coming 49 minutes into the story) has little to do with her few brief scenes opposite William Gargan. Clark Gable, billed third in the credits, in pilot's cap and goggles, does what he could with his role set mostly inside his airplane flying over the clouds and he making reports in his logbook. At least Robert Montgomery, who also has little to do, breaks away from piloting for a dining scene opposite the nervous body-scratching inspector (Lionel Barrymore) inside a cabaret.

For decades, NIGHT FLIGHT had been unavailable for viewing after it was taken out of circulation around 1942. It appeared the movie may never be seen again. In 1981, the Regency Theater in New York City, listed NIGHT FLIGHT as among the movies to be shown during its tribute to the Barrymores (John, Lionel and Ethel). Eagerly awaiting to attend the screening of NIGHT FLIGHT, I was disappointed with its cancellation to have John Barrymore's classic comedy, TWENTIETH CENTURY (Columbia, 1934) shown in its place. It wouldn't be until 2011 when legal claims to NIGHT FLIGHT have finally been cleared and made available for viewing on DVD before NIGHT FLIGHT finally made its cable television premiere on Turner Classic Movies on August 10, 2012. Depending on mixed reviews by today's standards, NIGHT FLIGHT, heavily scored with some "film noir" fashion, remains a long-awaited star attraction aviation movie worth viewing. (***1/2)
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8/10
Close Encounters
2 June 2019
STRICTLY DISHONORABLE (Universal, 1931), directed by John M. Stahl, stars Paul Lukas (courtesy of Paramount Pictures), Sidney Fox and Lewis Stone (on loan from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), in this screen adaptation from the original stage play by Preston Sturges, years before winning fame as a comedy director for Paramount Pictures in the 1940s. With the screenplay by Gladys Lehman, which was reportedly said to have stuck close to the play and mood, this screen adaptation, virtually a filmed stage play, comes to life through much of its then risque dialogue that would never have gone passed the production code of 1934.

Plot summary: Isabelle Parry (Sidney Fox) is a Southern gal engaged to marry the bespectacled stuffy bond salesman, Henry Greene (George Meeker). While driving down the crowded New York City streets of Broadway (with movie marque of Maurice Chevalier starring in "The Smiling Lieutenant" visible) on their way home to New Jersey, the couple decide to stop at a speakeasy. Managed by Tomasso (William Riccardi), the bar also consists of a former judge, Dempsey (Lewis Stone) having a few "old fashions." While Dempsey befriends Isabelle, he gets turned off by Henry's arrogance. Also entering the scene is Gus Di Ruva (Paul Lukas), a famed opera singer better known by his stage name of Tino Caraffa. Like the kindly judge, who lives in the apartments above, he also gets turned off by Henry's unlikable personality. As Officer Mulligan (Sidney Toler) asks the owner (Henry) whose car is parked next to a fire hydrant to have it moved, during his absence, Isabelle and Gus become better acquainted during their dancing to the record playing tune of "It Happened in Monterey," Discovering this, Henry's jealousy and rude remarks force Isabelle to call off their engagement. Wanting to have Mulligan arrest Gus and Tomasso for the abduction of Isabelle, Henry ends up jailed instead. In the meantime, with no place else to go, the free-spirited Isabelle, who has been living with Henry and his parents under the same household, is offered a place to stay - being Gus's apartment on a "strictly dishonorable" basis. While the judge feels Isabel to be immoral and that she's be better off staying at the Martha Washington Hotel instead, Gus comes to the conclusion of buying her train tickets back to where she came from, but begins to have second thoughts. Situations occur when Henry, released from jail, returns to the scene.

In general, STRICTLY DISHONORABLE is a showcase for Sidney Fox. She not only gets enough camera closeups, but is virtually in every scene. Her Southern accent comes similar to her performance in THE MOUTHPIECE (Warners, 1932), for which she once more plays a girl from the South. Lewis Stone, who interestingly was featured in a similar sounding movie title, STRICTLY UNCONVENTIONAL (MGM, 1930), is perfect as the moral-minding judge, a role no different from his Judge Hardy portrayal in the "Andy Hardy" family series (1937-1946) for his home studio of MGM. The top-billed Paul Lukas is perfectly cast as the accented-speaking opera singer whose character is hinted as one being a ladies man and no stranger of having women living in his quarters. His girlfriend, Lilli (never seen) is passed off as his cousin to Isabel.

One interesting aspect for STRICTLY DISHONORABLE is the camera tracking through windows and stairways to keep this 91 minute production from being virtually stage-bound. Maybe not as amusing as it was back in 1931, STRICTLY DISHONORABLE comes as surprising through its frankness as the Isabelle character showing no shame in saying she lives with her fiance. This dark-haired beauty with a male-sounding name, Fox proves herself worthy in what might be considered her best screen performance to her short-lived movie career. Situations move briskly throughout the story, especially how one could fall in love and want to marry a total stranger the very same evening of their first encounter. George Meeker is strictly obnoxious in character while William Riccardi (reprising his stage role) is strictly available throughout for comedy relief gestures involving both judge and opera singer friends.

Unavailable for viewing due to the 1951 MGM remake starring Enzio Pinza and Janet Leigh, which has been softer in tone, this 1931 original, which has never been distributed to either video cassette and DVD, has been rediscovered to a new generation of movie lovers in 1997 on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. Though broadcasts for the original STRICTLY DISHONORABLE have been limited, the film in general is strictly worth viewing mainly out of curiosity. (***)
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Be Yourself! (1930)
7/10
The Prizefighter and the Lady
27 May 2019
BE YOURSELF! (United Artists, 1930), directed by Thornton Freeland, stars Fanny Brice, popular comedienne from burlesque to Ziegfeld Follies to popular radio character of "Baby Snooks," in one of her very rare motion pictures in which she starred. As much as Brice, with her odd facial structure, would be somewhat hard to cast, here she plays a self-sacrificing nightclub entertainer with a soft spot for a hapless prizefighter. Billed in the credits as Fannie, BE YOURSELF!, somewhat mistitled, offers the original "funny girl" herself a chance to be both funny in her manner and sentimental through her feelings. With little evidence to the popularity she gained on stage, this is one opportunity getting to see the one-and-only Fanny Brice on the motion picture screen.

The story opens with prizefighter, Jerry Moore (Robert Armstrong) losing to McGloskey (G. Pat Collins) in the boxing ring. Next scene finds both boxers, seated in separate tables, being entertained by nightclub singer, Fannie Field (Fannie Brice), who very much favors Jerry. Because of his reputation as a boozing fighter who loses his matches, Fannie feels Jerry has potential to become a heavyweight boxing champion. She has her lawyer brother, Harry Field (Harry Green), to give up his practice by acting as his manager. Fannie invests her own money is $200 in fees and $1500 for Jerry's training, but shows no improvement in his boxing style. In time and with the proper training, Jerry wins six successful victories. All goes well until Fannie's showgirl rival, Lillian Wilson (Gertrude Astor), changes her affections from McCloskey to Jerry, even to a point of having his nose fixed and engagement to be married, causing Fannie to feel miserable and betrayed, until she comes up with an idea. Also in the cast are Buddy Fine ("Step"), and Rita Flynn (Jessica).

Fanny Brice, who made her movie debut in a part-talking musical titled by her signature song, MY MAN (Warner Brothers, 1928), currently unavailable for viewing, makes BE YOURSELF! the earliest filmed document to the Brice legend available today. With her acting style a mix between that of comediennes Winnie Lightner and Mae West, Brice does what she can with the material documented. Though she handles both comedy and sentiment convincingly, BE YOURSELF makes one wish this were a solid screwball comedy showcasing Brice's comedic talents. Though the story is rather ordinary, it's highlighted by some good song and dance interludes, including "When a Woman Loves a Man" (sung by Fanny Brice, Gertrude Astor, Marjorie Kane, and chorus); "Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love" "Stasha the Passion of the Pasha" (both sung by Fanny Brice) "Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love" (reprise by boy singer, Jimmy Tolson, dressed in bellhop uniform); "Kicking a Hole in the Sky" (a Satan number with lyrics of "Lovely ladies down in Hades," performed by Brice and others); "It's Better to Be Grateful" and "When a Woman Loves a Man." Of the lively tunes, only the final rendition of "When a Woman Loves a Man" is sentimentally sung with feeling by Brice in the "My Man" mode, but not quite as legendary.

One of the many musicals produced during the 1929-30 era, BE YOURSELF is one of those rare treats that would be of interest today due to the presence of Fanny Brice, or an early look of Robert Armstrong, three years before his iconic adventure film, KING KONG (RKO Radio, 1933) opposite Fay Wray. Harry Green's acting style, which could be annoying at times, is better structured this time around. Though this 65 minute edition of BE YOURSELF might be a shorter reissue edition to a longer original theatrical showing, this is what's circulating today. Briefly distributed on video cassette and DVD through KINO Home Video, BE YOURSELF did broadcast years ago on cable television's American Movie Classics (1997-2000) during the early morning hours. For what it's worth, BE YOURSELF entertains due to Brice's "be yourself" personality along with well-staged production numbers to help move it along. (***)
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8/10
The Misadventures of Professor Lambert
19 May 2019
PROFESSOR BEWARE (A Paramount Release, 1938), directed by Elliott Nugent, stars Harold Lloyd, silent film comedian of the 1920s, in his final sound comedy of the 1930s. Lloyd, whose movie career dates back to 1915, first appearing in comedy shorts before reinventing his "glasses" character from short to feature length comedies through the next decade, has come a long way since his talking debut in WELCOME DANGER (1929). Producing a new comedy every two years by the 1930s, Lloyd was always searching for new ideas to make his next comedy better than his last. Though PROFESSOR BEWARE attempts to work its way with familiar material adding a fine mix of old and new comedy routines, the final result is a series of segment chases during its 93 minute course.

The prologue opens briefly "in ancient Egypt 3000 years ago" where Neferus is being buried alive in a tomb while Anebi, the woman responsible for his downfall, screams while looking on. Move forward, "Los Angeles, 3000 years later," introduces Professor Dean Lambert (Harold Lloyd), an archealogist for the Olympia Museum, who happens to be the exact replica (except for his glasses) of the statue image of Neferus. Because of Neferus' fate, which has Lambert refusing to have anything to do with women fearing it may be responsible for his own downfall, as explained on the Egyptian tablets, history begins to repeat itself. No sooner after driving away from the museum does Lambert meet Jane Van Buren (Phyllis Welch), a damsel in distress stranded on the road with her car in the ditch with "Snoop" Donlan (William Frawley), her talent scout, on their way to an audition. Hanlon not only happens to be found drunk inside her car, but happens to be left unconscious in his underwear. Lambert is talked into giving his clothes to Donlan so they can be on their way to the theater. When Lambert is caught by the police in his underwear, he gets arrested and immediately loses his museum job. Invited to go on an Egyptian expedition, Lambert accepts, leaving for New York City to meet the boat on its way to Egypt, but has trouble heading for his destination. Being accused of stealing Donlans's priceless watch, Jane, who loses her audition anyway, drives cross country in the stolen museum station wagon, searching for Lambert to bring him back to prove his innocence. Their paths eventually do meet, with Lambert, determined not to miss that boat to Egypt, both venture on their cross country road tour which becomes a series of one misadventure after another. Also in the cast are Raymond Walburn (Judge James G. Parkhouse Marshall), Lionel Stander (Jerry Jerimiah), Thurston Hall (J.J. Van Buren), Clara Blandick (Amelia Green, the landlady), Cora Witherspoon, Sterling Holloway, Irving Bacon, Montagu Love, Charles Lane, Guinn Williams, Ward Bond, among many others.

Though PROFESSOR BEWARE doesn't compare with Harold Lloyd's best silent comedies (namely SAFETY LAST (1923), SPEEDY (1928), the film overall is entertaining enough to sit through its entirety without losing any interest. Scenes involving Lloyd's Lambert driving his car under a tent, or he ending up frozen after being taken out from a refrigerated train car, are reminiscent to any one of the Three Stooges comedy shorts. There's also a lengthy scene involving Lloyd, Walburn and Standing bumming a ride on top of a freight train and making a run the opposite direction as the train approaches a tunnel, this being one of the highlights. As mentioned before, PROFESSOR BEWARE is a series of individual chases before its climatic run involving a build-up crowd of people chasing after Harold, being more in mood than exact manner to Buster Keaton's better constructed comedy short, COPS (1922). The aforementioned character-types help the movie along, and PROFESSOR BEWARE does have its huge assortment of them to go around. Lloyd's co-star, Phyllis Welch, makes her first and farewell performance on film. She works well as Lloyd's traveling companion, and might have gone further in movies had she not married and retired upon the film's release.

Unlike Lloyd's silent and sound comedies, PROFESSOR BEWARE was possibly the only Harold Lloyd comedy circulating on television since the 1960s, and more commonly shown notably on New York City's WPIX Channel 11 (1967-1973) for several years before having a brief stint on public television in the early 1980s. From 1994 to 1999, PROFESSOR BEWARE became part of the film library to cable television's American Movie Classics As much as Turner Classic Movies has had many tributes to the films and career of Harold Lloyd, ranging from silent to talkies, thus far, PROFESSOR BEWARE has never become part of its movie package. With no know video cassette or DVD distribution, PROFESSOR BEWARE deserves better recognition considering it being one of those movies that appears to have improved with age, regardless of its thin plot with familiar run-on gags in Harold's Lloyd's world of comedy. (*** tablets)
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7/10
Judge Hardy's Family Home on the Range
12 May 2019
OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1938), marks the fifth entry to the "Judge Hardy's Family/Andy Hardy" series, following its previous installments of A FAMILY AFFAIR (1937), YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE (1937), JUDGE HARDY'S CHILDREN (1938) and the immensely popular, LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938). Featuring the standard cast of Lewis Stone (Judge James K. Hardy), Mickey Rooney (Andrew Hardy), Cecilia Parker (Marian Hardy), Fay Holden (Emily Hardy), this edition also welcomes back Sara Haden as the family's Aunt Milly Forrest, the role recast in two previous installments by Betty Ross Clark. As in many a film series, there would be a matter of time before its title characters would venture out west, and this is it, though not in a sense of cowboys, horses and bar room brawls found in many a western, but another vacation for the family where the father helps with another family's situations.

The story starts off not in a courtroom, but in the Hardy household where the family is having dinner before the lights suddenly go out, and son, Andy, solving the darkness problem by placing a penny in the fuse box. Situations soon occur when Mother Hardy, upset over her personal problems, feels she needs a rest. Receiving a telegram from a personal friend of Dora Northcole (Nana Bryant) for some personal assistance, Judge Hardy's decision for a family rest and relaxation and helping out an old friend is to take his family out to the Northcole ranch in Medville, Arizona. While there, Judge Hardy attempts in helping Dora's husband, Bill (Ralph Morgan) and his family settle their water rights problem with H.R. Bruxton (Thurston Hall), or else they will be evicted from their ranch. Then there's daughter, Marian, who recently had broken up with her boyfriend, Dennis Hunt (Don Castle) back home, becoming romantically involved with Ray Holt (Gordon Jones), a foreman rancher and widower father of an eight-year-old daughter, Jake (Virginia Weidler). Believing herself in love with Ray, Marian, contemplating marriage, decides to try out country living by awaking at 5 a.m., and making long preparations of the day starting with breakfast. Jake, however, disapproves of Marian with possibilities of her becoming her new mother. though she has taken a liking to her younger brother, Andy, though Andy would rather become involved with a girl closer to his own age. Others in the cast consist of Tom Neal (Aldrich Brown); Anthony Allan (Cliff Thomas); and Gordon Douglas (Mr. Carter). Series regulars Ann Rutherford (Polly Benedict, Andy's girlfriend) and Erville Aldderson (Dave, the courtroom bailiff) are available, but assuming smaller parts.

Though not as successful nor memorable as LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY, OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS is standard comedy-drama. Though there are some moments of humor involving Andy trying life as a cowboy, there's also some serious moments involving Andy's accident while riding Jake's Calico horse, resulting to a broken leg, bringing tearful moments involving little Jake. Rooney and Weidler. who work well together, would reunite again in future films as YOUNG TOM EDISON (1940) and BABES ON BROADWAY (1941).

As with YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE, where the Hardy's take time away from their hometown of Carvel, OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS returns to similar material involving Andy's antics and Marian's new romantic interest. A bit slow-going at 84 minutes, the film is worthy viewing mainly for fans of the series. Never distributed on video cassette, OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS has become available most often on cable channel's Turner Classic Movies where this and the additional 15 episodes can be seen from time to time. Next in the series: THE HARDY'S RIDE HIGH (1939) (***)
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7/10
Masquerade in Zuppa
5 May 2019
ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT (United Artists, 1930), directed by George Fitzmaurice, was producer Samuel Goldwyn's contribution to the early talkie operettas. Following the pattern of MGM's Grace Moore, Warner Brothers' Bernice Claire or Vivienne Segal, or Jeanette MacDonald of Paramount, Goldwyn went on to introduce to the American screen the singing British entertainer by the name of Evelyn Laye (1900-1995). Appearing as her male co-star is the singing talent of John Boles (1987-1969), whose earlier contribution to the movie musical consisted those of THE DESERT SONG (Warners, 1929), RIO RITA (RKO, 1929), CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD (Universal, 1930), and several others before musicals of any way, shape or form became box-office disappointments. Though produced in 1930, and released in early January 1931, ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT came late into the cycle to be considered a success.

Set in Hungary, the story opens at the Cafe Budapest where Fritzi Yves (billed Fritzi Yajos) (Lilyan Tashman) entertains with her rendition of a naughty song. Being labeled "The Toast of Budapest," Fritzi, quite popular with the male population, ignores a handsome young soldier for her middle-aged guest, Baron Zagen (Lionel Bellmore). A fight ensues leading to a riot, police raid and Fritzi's arrest. Remaining behind is Lilli (Evelyn Laye), a flower girl at the cabaret who admires Fritzi's carefree ways. Upon her release, Fritzi is sentenced by the Prefect of Police to spend six months where she is to rest in the country chaperoned by some local magistrate of Zuppa. Before leaving, Fritzi visits with Lilli and talks her into masquerading as herself while she remains behind with Baron Zagen. Accompanied by Otto (Leon Errol), her guardian, Lillie, posing as Fritzi, spends her time in a villa which happens to be near the estate of Count Mirko Tibor (John Boles), the magistrate and ladies' man who very much wants to meet this notorious "worst woman in Budapest." He finally does after her horse she's riding on happens to cross over the boundaries onto his estate. Getting acquainted with him at his dinner gathering, with his manservant, Janos (Hugh Cameron) entertaining with Otto elsewhere, Mirko, who has kept his identity secret, finds it strange how this notorious "Fritzi" doesn't appear to be what her reputation describes. Also in the cast are Marion Lord (Liska); George Bickel (Papa Lorenc); Henry Kolker (The Prefect of Police); and Luis Alberni (The Violinist).

Songs featured include: "I Belong to Everybody, Everybody" (sung by Lilyan Tashman); "Along The Road of Dreams" (sung by Evelyn Laye); "My Heart is Beating" (sung by Evelyn Laye and John Boles); "The Goodnight Serenade" (sung by Laye, Boles and male chorus); and "Heavenly Night (When Evening is Near)" (sung by Boles and Laye). Although these tunes are forgettable, only "My Heart is Beating" stands out as the film's best song. With the song interludes being few and far between, and this being centered as Evelyn Laye's movie, it is Leon Errol who gets most of the attention with his comedy antics. Assisted by Hugh Cameron, amusements include one where they try to fix a Swizzle drink of rum through the instructions of a air-flipping pages book; and the art collection sequence where Cameron attempts to keep the careless Errol from breaking an assortment of china and glassware. Errol gets about two minutes to himself, sans any underscoring, trying in vain to place a stamp onto an envelope to mail. Though hilarious by 1931 standards, these comedy moments may seem long and drawn-out to contemporary viewers. Evelyn Laye is acceptable in her role, quite pretty, singing pleasingly and looking almost like Joan Bennett in her blondish headdress at times. Sadly her American movie career was short-lived. After returning to Hollywood for THE NIGHT IS YOUNG (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1934) singing opposite Ramon Novarro, it was realized she was better off appearing in British stage revues and music halls instead. As much as John Boles is a very good singer, he would soon abandon his vocalization for work in dramatic roles as STELLA DALLAS (1937) starring Barbara Stanwyck.

For Samuel Goldwyn's only attempt in operetta, ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT gets by on its own merits during much of its 82 minutes. With limited television broadcasts on New York City's WPIX, Channel 11 (1971-1975), ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT, which had a limited video cassette release but to date, no DVD, did have some brief cable television broadcasts such as on Wometco Home Theater and Showtime (1986), Nostalgia Television (1990s) and Turner Classic Movies TCM premiere: November 13, 2008). Virtually forgotten, possibly due to its unfamiliar cast names, namely Evelyn Laye, ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT is an agreeable little piece of early sound operetta from Hollywood's bygone era. (***)
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Girl Crazy (1932)
6/10
Dude Ranch
28 April 2019
GIRL CRAZY (RKO Radio, 1932), directed by William A. Seiter, is the first of three screen adaptations to the popular 1930 musical-comedy by John McGowan and Guy Bolton that starred Allen Kearns (Danny Churchill), Ginger Rogers (Molly) and Ethel Merman (Kate) in the cast. Most notable for the songs by George and Ira Gershwin, and the 1943 remake for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in name only starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, this edition is mostly centered upon the antics of the studios' own comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, with the central characters of Danny Churchill and Molly Gray placed mostly as background material.

The story opens at a cemetery of tombstones belonging to murdered sheriffs, all killed off by "Arizona Heavy" outlaw Lank Saunders (Stanley Fields), whose sole purpose is to take control over the sleepy western town of Custerville, Arizona. Playboy Danny Churchill (Eddie Quillan) enters the scene as a girl crazy individual whose millionaire father has sent him to the Molly O Ranch for two years to forget about the opposite sex. Easier said than done as Danny meets and falls in love with the post girl, Molly Gray (Arline Judge). Wanting to add some good entertainment to his relatively dull surroundings, Danny telegrams his friend, Slick Foster (Robert Woolsey), in Chicago, formerly a medicine man, auctioneer and hypnotist, now a compulsive gambler and husband to Kate (Kitty Kelly), to come over and convert the dude ranch into a place of jazz music, show girls and gambling. The Fosters soon acquire the taxi service of Jimmy Aloysius Deegan (Bert Wheeler), nine-year employee of the Checker Cab Company, to drive them all the way to Arizona, thus leaving his annoying kid sister, Tessie (Mitzi Green) behind. Following a long distance drive to Custerville, with the fare total of $465.30, Jimmy is accused of being the sheriff killer. After being saved from a lynch mob by Patsy (Dorothy Lee), the "girl of the golden west," she soon becomes Jimmy's love interest. Other than finding Tessie, who has stowed away by bus, awaiting for him at the ranch, Jimmy is then selected to become the town's next sheriff, with Slick acting as his campaign manager. As Jimmy unwittingly wins 800 to 1 vote (Slick demanded a recount), his biggest problem now is avoiding getting killed off by the habitual sheriff killer, Saunders. As for Danny, his biggest problem is the arrival of his New York City George Mason (Brooks Benedict) coming between he and Molly's romance. Other supporting players include Monty Collins (The Bartender); Lita Chevret (Maria); Chris-Pin Martin (Pete) and Nat Pendleton (The Motorcycle Cop).

Songs presented in this production include: "Bidin' My Time" (sung by cowboys); "I Got Rhythm" (sung by Kitty Kelly/cast); "You Got What Gets Me" (sung by Bert Wheeler and Dorothy Lee, danced by Wheeler, Lee and Mitzi Green); "But Not For Me" (sung by Eddie Quillan and Arline Judge/reprized by Mitzi Green); and "I Got Rhythm" (sung by chorus during closing credits). The "I Got Rhythm,"the film's signature number, might have benefited better from the singing style of Ethel Merman from the stage version, yet Kitty Kelly holds her own in her deep throaty rendition, with camera cutaways to a rhythm dancing owl and cactus trees. Aside from Mitzi Green singing "But Not for Me," she does this in her own imitating style of current celebrities of the day as Bing Crosby, the stuttering Roscoe Ates, George Arliss and Edna May Oliver. Of the four personalities, her best imitation goes to good ole Edna May.

For anyone who's seen the better known GIRL CRAZY (1943) will notice how much the original has no bearing with the remake except for the character names and a few good songs carried over from the Broadway show. With this being the ninth screen teaming of Wheeler and Woolsey, unlike their previous comedies starting with RIO RITA (1929), they don't start off as friends or partners. The first half finds Wheeler and Woolsey more as individual characters than an item, with Woolsey (the cigar smoker with horn-rim glasses) dealing mostly with his on-screen wife (Kelly) and Wheeler coping with his younger sister's (Green) annoyance. The second half reverts to traditional Wheeler and Woolsey material following their campaigning Wheeler's character for sheriff. As with many of their comedies for RKO, their gags and verbal exchanges are either hit or miss. Fine amusements include confuse dialogue mix between Mitzi Green and Bert Wheeler to Dorothy Lee (in similar fashion of Amos and Andy in CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK (1930)); Wheeler and Woolsey disguised as Indians, Sitting Bull and Sitting Pretty, among others. With Wheeler and Woolsey carrying on much of the comedy, the romantic girl crazy subplot between Eddie Quillan and Arline Judge offers little significance to the story.

Due to the latter MGM remakes, including the updated edition retitled WHEN THE BOYS MEET THE GIRLS (MGM, 1965) with Connie Francis and Harve Presnell, this GIRL CRAZY has been out of circulation for decades. It wasn't until July 14, 1995, when cable television's Turner Classic Movies brought this long unseen 76 minute movie back in circulation again. Available on DVD with another Wheeler and Woolsey comedy, PEACH O'RENO (1931) on the flip side, regardless of its current availability, it's the 1943 edition of GIRL CRAZY that remains the best of the three screen editions thus far. (**1/2)
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6/10
Broadcast News
21 April 2019
TWO AGAINST THE WORLD (Warner Brothers, 1936), directed by William McGann, goes on record as the first motion picture starring Humphrey Bogart. Having been in the movie business since 1930, he was usually a secondary character normally supporting its leading players. Having made an impression as Duke Mantee on both stage (1935) and screen (1936) versions of THE PETRIFIED FOREST, Bogart landed a contract with the Warner Brothers studio where he worked in a variety of roles, better suited playing gangster types. For TWO AGAINST THE WORLD, he's not a villain, but one of the bosses working for a radio studio supported by Warner Brothers stock players as his co-stars.

Set in New York City's United Broadcasting Company, "The Voice of the people," Sherry Scott (Humphrey Bogart) is called in by Bertram C. Reynolds (Robert Middlemass) the studio manager, to come up with new plan to help with popular appeal following its recent audience loss and low ratings, it is decided do a new radio series based on a 15-year-old notorious "Gloria Pembroke Case" by which the woman in question had murdered a man, but acquitted by trial and jury. Cora Latimer (Claire Dodd) and Martin Leavenworth (Harry Hayden) are hired to dig up articles in the archives to serialize the stories on a daily basis. Scott's loyal secretary, Alma Ross (Beverly Roberts) is against the idea, but the management goes on with it to boost up its ratings no matter who gets hurt. In the meantime, the real Gloria Pembroke, now known as Martha Carstairs (Helen MacKeller), living not far from the radio studio in an apartment on West 93rd Street, is alive and well, happily married to James (Henry O'Neill), who knows of her past. Their daughter, Edith (Linda Perry) is engaged to marry the following day to Malcolm Sims (Carlyle Moore Jr.). After presenting them their wedding present being a furniture-sized radio, the first thing they listen to is advertisement of the upcoming "Gloria Pembroke Case." Not wanting the young couple of ever learning about Martha's past, both Jim and Martha try in vain to keep these broadcasts from taking place. Mistaking Leavenworth for a minister connected with their daughter's upcoming wedding, Leavenworth discloses the information to the radio station for program use. However, after Jim loses his position at the bank, and Malcolm's upscale parents (Douglas Wood and Virginia Brissac) arrive demanding the wedding is not to take place, a series of unfortunate events soon follow, changing the lives of both families and the radio station as well. Others in the cast include: Hobart Cavanaugh, Frank Orth and Paula Stone. Bobby Gordon, who plays messenger boy, Herman Mills, may look familiar for anyone who's ever seen Al Jolson's THE JAZZ SINGER (1927), for which Gordon, a Jolson look-alike, was the one who played Jolson's character as a young boy early in the story.

If the plot summary sounds familiar, it's because the plot was earlier done by Warners as a newspaper story titled FIVE STAR FINAL (1931) starring Edward G. Robinson, Marian Marsh, Aline MacMahon and Boris Karloff in the Bogart, Perry, Roberts and Hayden parts. This remake, released five years later, changes much of its background to a radio station but retains it characters assuming different names. Nearly a half hour shorter, the remake suffers from rush production, leaving out material explaining certain incidents leading to connecting sequences, namely as to how the Leavenworth character was able to trace the actual Grace Pembroke to Martha Carstairs so quickly after being assigned and able to work into the Carstairs confidence by masquerading as a minister in their home. Maybe connections leading to subsequent scenes have been shortened (57 minutes) to the current circulating print under a different title showed on Turner Classic Movies of ONE FATAL HOUR. Theatrically released at 64 minutes, possibly its new title was substituted to avoid confusion to the studios' earlier 1932 drama bearing the same name but different story Constance Bennett and Neil Hamilton.

Though the central players give sincere performances, TWO AGAINST THE WORLD pales in comparison to FIVE STAR FINAL. It is interesting to note both Henry O'Neill and Helen MacKeller, normally found playing much smaller parts in other films, are given the rare opportunity becoming central characters as two against the world. Only debit, Linda Perry's bad acting towards the end, though not as over-the-top acting as Marian Marsh's performance in FIVE STAR FINAL. Regardless of differences in presentation, both films are satisfactory in both entertainment and star value. (** radios)
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Love Affair (1932)
5/10
The Lady Takes a Flyer
20 April 2019
LOVE AFFAIR (Columbia, 1932), directed by Thornton Freeland, is a minor second feature drama starring former Warner Brothers star, Dorothy MacKaill, opposite future Warner Brother star, Humphrey Bogart. Though the title bears no relation to the LOVE STORY (RKO, 1939) starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer (remade most famously as AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957) starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr), this 68 minute production, taken from a story by Ursula Parrott, offers little interest except for the presence of young Humphrey Bogart in one of his earliest screen appearances.

Plot summary: Carol Owen (Dorothy MacKaill), a carefree heiress, is first seen at Antone's (Harold Minjir) salon getting all dolled up for an event that's to take place that day. After taking flying lessons at Gilligan's (Jack Kennedy) flying school, she's to now take her first flight in the air. Refusing the guidance of Eddie (Frank Rice), she chooses a much younger instructor, Jim Leonard (Humphrey Bogart). Following her flight in the air, she takes Jim on a wild car wide in her roadster back to town. She stops at her home where Jim is introduced to her society friends. Bored and feeling out of place, Jim, totally ignored, leaves without notice. Carol comes to Jim's apartment where she learns his plans on leaving aviation school to dedicate his time working on and trying to promote his new airplane motor. Because of her interest in Jim, Carol arranges for Bruce Hardy (Hale Hamilton), a Wall Street tycoon and her financial adviser, to finance Jim $5,000 for his motor for him to form his Leonard Motor Company. In the meantime, Jim has a younger sister, Linda (Astrid Allwyn), an aspiring young actress working under the name of Linda Lee, who isn't what she appears to be. She not only supported and living in the luxurious apartment of Bruce Hardy, who loves Carol, but she's been using his financial means for Georgie Keeler (Bradley Page), a suave Broadway producer, to use for his show where Linda is to appear. Problems arise when Carol, learning that she is broke, to become engaged to Bruce and marry him for his money after promising Jim she loves nobody else but him. Also in the supporting cast are: Halliwell Hobbes (Kibbee, Dorothy's butler); and Barbara Leonard (Felice, the French hair stylist).

As much as there is no real love affair to mention, LOVE AFFAIR is actually two separate stories for the price of one, each involving either Jim and his sister. Dorothy MacKaill's character is very much the aggressor going after and getting what she wants, Dressed mostly in fur coat and high-fashion clothes, MacKaill may be best known for her pre-code melodrama, SAFE IN HELL (Warner Brothers, 1931), which is often claimed to be her finest work in the early sound era. Humphrey Bogart, in a role that might have gone to the likes of a Ralph Bellamy, Pat O'Brien or a Ben Lyon, might seem to be an odd choice as her male co-star. Though type-cast later in gangster roles or bad-guys, Bogart would prove his worth as a romantic-type in the 1940s, especially in the Academy Award winning drama, CASABLANCA (1943). Yet, LOVE AFFAIR would prove more interesting viewing today mainly due to Bogart's presence than the rediscovery of Dorothy MacKaill. Astrid Allwyn as Bogart's sister, interestingly, appeared also in the better known 1939 edition of LOVE AFFAIR as well.

Never distributed to home video, LOVE AFFAIR did become available on DVD . It's cable television broadcasts were mainly on Turner Classic Movies in 1994, with brief revivals later in 2009 and 2011, around the same time TCM unearthed many other obscure films of the Columbia Pictures library from the 1930s and 1940s. (**)
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