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A Little Gem
26 February 2018
Paramount has produced a neat little gem of a "B" western, worth seeing if only for a truly impressive cast, including two Oscar winners (Broderick Crawford and Anthony Quinn) and two other Oscar nominees (May Robson and Akim Tamiroff). Add in a virtual who's who of character actors including three walk-of-fame stars (Ellen Drew, John Howard and Monte Blue), Charley Grapewin (The Wizard of Oz), and Eddie Foy, Jr. (Yankee Doodle Dandy) among others, and you have lots to watch for in a relatively short picture.

Filmed on location in Arizona and set in the contemporary (for 1940) West, the usual elements of a cowboy adventure all appear: cattle rustlers and their ruthless leader, the beautiful rancher's daughter, the dominating landowner (this time, a formidable May Robson), an undercover lawman, the dishonest townsman, and a climactic shootout. And the hero gets the girl, naturally. An unusual ranch house/castle/fortress originally built to withstand Indian attack has an old dark house feel. The only real wrinkle is seeing the Texas Rangers in a modern office building, using motor vehicles (sometimes) and communicating by radio.

Well worth spending just over an hour for an afternoon's entertainment.
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Two married lawyers divorce, then represent opposite sides in an annulment case.
29 September 2011
After Jack Smith (Neil Hamilton) and his wife (Miriam Jordan) divorce, she completes her legal education, and they oppose each other in a courtroom in a case involving damages over an annulment forced by a meddling mother-in-law. The case itself reflects the root cause of their own divorce (a meddling mother-in-law). Whether love wins over the "battle axe" dowagers in either case is the basis for the plot of this little comedy.

In some ways this film is a precursor to "Adam's Rib," but Hamilton and Jordan, of course, can't rival Tracey and Hepburn. Even so, there are some notable features making a viewing worthwhile. First, Jordan does a pretty good job of portraying a competent, self-assured and successful layer at a time when women attorneys were rare. Second, she also makes a worthwhile and (relevant to our own times), albeit brief, statement about the credentials as a true American of the son of the immigrant businessman Henry Populopulini (played fabulously by Henry Armetta, who stole every scene he was in). Third, the film offers a case study about attitudes toward marriage, in-laws, and class consciousness in 1934.

Although stagy, with a somewhat abrupt and unsatisfying ending, we can be grateful to the Library of Congress for restoring this film.
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