Magnificent Obsession (1935)
The first distinguishing feature I noticed about Gregory La Cava's films, apart from his great ability with comedy, was the tension between humor and pain, which often seemed quite off-kilter, unpredictable, and liable to Whang you in the face. The happy ending of Stage Door (1937) is marred by our consciousness of the death of the most sympathetic and passionate character (some prints apparently include a quick shot of her grave at the end, not smoothing over the problem so much as highlighting it). When Lee Tracy prepares to beat up Lupe Velez at the end of The Half-Naked Truth (1932), and the soundtrack jauntily plays Mendelssohn's Wedding March, the modern sensibility rather shudders.
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