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The Irish in Us (1935)
Fight For Your Lady
THE IRISH IN US (Warner Brothers, 1935), directed by Lloyd Bacon, ranks one of the many Irish family related themes for its time, some notably directed by John Ford for Fox Studios. With Ford's Academy Award winning direction of 1935 for his dramatic and dark Irish Rebellion story of THE INFORMER (RKO) starring Victor McLaglen, THE IRISH IN US is quite the opposite, being a lighthearted comedy about a typical Irish family of Seventh Avenue in New York City featuring the cast of well known Irish actors.
As the underscoring of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," fades, the story introduces Mrs. O'Hara (Mary Gordon), a widowed mother, preparing breakfast for her three grown sons: Pat O'Hara (Pat O'Brien), an officer of the law; Mike (Frank McHugh), a fireman; and Danny (James Cagney), a lazy loafer who looks for excuses not to work to earn a living. Aside from being spoiled by his mother for being the youngest of the family, Danny acquires a new profession for himself as a self-employed fight promoter for "Car Barn" Hammerschlos (Allen Jenkins), a flop prizefighter he brought home the night before, who happens to be a streetcar conductor who starts punching at the sound of a bell. Pat is in love with Lucille Jackson (Olivia De Havilland), daughter of his police captain (J. Farrell MacDonald), and invites her to meet his family for dinner that evening. Before the gathering, Danny had earlier met Lucille while jogging with Car Barn in Central Park, assisting her by changing the flat tire of her car. The dinner fails as Car Barn starts socking at the sound of he doorbell, putting Pat and Mike to the floor. As Pat recuperates in his bed, Danny drives Lucille home. At the fireman's ball, Danny and Lucille have fallen in love and are caught kissing by Pat. With Pat no longer on speaking terms with Danny, who has moved out of their home, further complications ensue for Danny as he ends up in the boxing ring opposite championship boxer, Joe Delaney (Harvey Perry), at the police benefit with the O'Hara clan and Lucille watching from their seats. Others in the cast include: Mabel Colcord (Mrs. Adams); with Edward Gargan and Edward Keane in smaller roles.
With THE IRISH IN US being the third collaboration of James Cagney and Pat O'Brien, this was the first time they appeared as brothers. Though the movie US is far from their iconic teaming to their classic masterpiece of ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938), the Cagney and O'Brien luck of the Irish make this routine story more watchable. Mary Gordon, best known for playing Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, in the Basil Rathbone/"Sherlock Holmes" mysteries of the 1940s, gets a sizable role here as the outspoken mother with a heart of gold. Frank McHugh as the third brother with no female conflicts nor romance interest, gets his usual comedy relief as well as Allen Jenkins as a punch drunk boxer. For being a Cagney and O'Brien starrer, Olivia De Havilland, still a newcomer to the screen following her motion picture debut of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935) that also featured Cagney and McHugh, would soon elevate her star status with her final 1935 release pf CAPTAIN BLOOD starring another newcomer to the screen, Errol Flynn. De Havilland would team with Cagney one more time in the now comedy classic, THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941).
With THE IRISH IN US commonly broadcast on commercial television on St. Patrick's Day (notably New York City's WNBC, Channel 4, from 1970-1973) during the after midnight hours, this 84 minute product with screenplay by Earl Baldwin, is available on both DVD and cable television's Turner Classic Movies. (**1/2 shamrocks)
Show People (1928)
SHOW PEOPLE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1928), directed by King Vidor, is not a movie about theatrical actors of the Broadway stage. It's actually a silent comedy dealing with behind the scenes of movie making in Hollywood. Though this could have been titled MOVIE PEOPLE or MOVIE CRAZY, regardless of title, next to ELLA CINDERS (1926) with Colleen Moore, SHOW PEOPLE is one of the finer comedies about actors and the movies. Starring Marion Davies in what many consider her best performance of the silent film era, SHOW PEOPLE also ranks one of the more notable movies about the movies produced at that time.
Opening tile: "To hopeful hundreds, there is a golden spot on the map called Hollywood." Opening scene: An air view of the motion picture capital of the world followed by glimpses of notable movie studios as Paramount, Fox, First National Pictures and, of course, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Driving down Hollywood Boulevard from their hometown of Georgia is Colonel Marmaduke Pepper (Dell Henderson) along with his daughter, Peggy (Marion Davies), whom he feels has enough talent to become a great actress. After hitting numerous casting offices where Peggy shows off her passion, anger, sorrow and joy, her series of disappointments ends after meeting with "custard pie artist" Billy Boone (William Haines) in a cafeteria who, through his influence, gets her an audition at the Cosmet Studios. Though Peggy wants nothing more than to be a dramatic actress, she ends up becoming the comedienne in his slapstick comedies. After the sneak preview, Peggy becomes an overnight sensation. With the intention of becoming Billy's partner in a series of movies for High Art Studios, Peggy discovers the studio bosses there want only her. In good faith, Billy steps aside, struggling for movie parts while Peggy, now better known as Patricia Pepoire, becomes a successful dramatic actress in "artistic" motion pictures opposite Andre Telfair (Paul Ralli). Because of her newfound success in movies and more cultured friends, Peggy finds no time to spend with Billy and her father. Billy soon realizes Peggy wants to forget her association with him and his low comedies that made her a star in the first place. Now it's up to the studio bosses to cope with an actress who's no longer human, regular and full of ambition.
The fun in watching movies such as this is spotting notable guest stars appearing as themselves, including John Gilbert, William S. Hart, Karl Dane, George K. Arthur, Douglas Fairbanks, Mae Murray, and Charlie Chaplin, minus his tramp outfit and mustache, as an autograph collector. Even director King Vidor gives himself a cameo in his own movie along with Marion Davies as Peggy finding time to briefly portray herself. Other members of the cast include Tenen Holts (The Casting Director); Harry Gribbon (The Dramatic Director) and Polly Moran (The Maid). SHOW PEOPLE also includes a brief theatrical clip King Vidor's direction of BARDELYS THE MAGNIFICENT (MGM, 1926) starring John Gilbert.
As much as Marion Davies silent movies have become forgotten or lost through the passage of time, there's no doubt from her movies that have become available in later years that Davies is better suited for comedy than dramatic or historical/costume films. Highlights to SHOW PEOPLE are the behind the scenes movie making along with endless attempt in getting Davies to shed tears for a dramatic scene, among others. William Haines should not go unnoticed with his fine performance as a slapstick comedian with common sense.While she and Haines could have starred in a sound remake to SHOW PEOPLE in the early 1930s, Davies' only other opportunity in in a Hollywood themed production was the entertaining musical opposite Bing Crosby titled GOING HOLLYWOOD (MGM, 1933).
Released with synchronized musical score to popular song hits of "California, Here I Come," "I'm Sitting on Top of the World," and "You'd Be Surprised," along with sound effects and off-screen vocalization to the tune, "Cross Roads," a print that airs on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. SHOW PEOPLE did get distribution onto video cassette in 1989 accompanied by the Carl Davis/Thames Orchestration, and years later on DVD. While the Davis scoring is adequate, its 1928 scoring comes off best and highly recommended to this Marion Davies 77 minute classic. (***).
THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE (Paramount, 1936), a Walter Wanger production, directed by Henry Hathaway, became the first sound version to the famous John Fox novel that was previously filmed during the silent movie era: (1914, with Dixie Compton); (1916, with Charlotte Walker, directed by Cecil B. DeMille), and (1923, with Mary Miles Minter). Aside from being its only known sound edition and notable title song used for WAY OUT WEST (1937) starring the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy, THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE become the first outdoors movie filmed entirely in Technicolor, by which a movie such as this with beautiful mountain scenery and trees would definitely cry for Technicolor anyway. For its new cast, this production features Paramount resident Sylvia Sidney, with two young rising actors in fine support, Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray, in a story about mountain feud between two rival families and the intrusion between the families by an outsider city feller.
FORWARD: "Among the American mountains there are forgotten valleys where people dwell shut in old words, old wars, old codes have lived on unchanged. Each family is at war with the other over deadly feuds whose beginnings they cannot remember. But their hatred is their patriotism, their quaint customs are their religion such a feud has been carried on for generations by the Tollivers and the Falins." PROLOGUE: The hills of Kentucky showing a feuding families, the Tollivers and Falins, shooting at each other. Judd (Fred Stone), head of his family, is unable to run to his cabin to be with his wife, Melissa (Beulah Bondi) giving birth to their first child. With newborn baby in her arms, Melissa, wanting nothing to do with the feud, prays for peace and guidance. STORY: "Today another generation has grown to accept the code of the lonesome pine." Judd and Melissa Tolliver, having another child, Buddy (Spanky MacFarland, from the "Our Gang" comedy shorts), await for their eldest daughter, June (Sylvia Sidney) to marry her distant cousin, Dave (Henry Fonda), whom they have raised since childhood. Jack Hale (Fred MacMurray), a city engineer accompanied by his assistant, Mr. Thurber (Nigel Bruce), arrives to discuss matters with Judd about coal on his property followed by railroad construction to go through both his property and the neighboring Falins. Jack soon notices Dave lying in bed slowly dying by gangrene from a gunshot wound in the arm by one of the Falins. Saving his life. Jack gets a contract from Judd with promised check of $5,000. With the feud continuing between the Tollivers and the Falins, further complications ensue with June not only wanting to live in the city of Louisville to get an education, but showing more love interest towards Jack than to Dave. With the killing of one of the Tollivers by the vengeful Falins take place, and Melissa wanting nothing more than to end the feud before any more killings take place, Jack complicates matters further by getting himself involved in the feud where he doesn't rightfully belong. Others in the cast include: Robert Barrat (Buck Falin, head of the clan); Alan Baxter (Clay Tolliver); Samuel S. Hinds (The Sheriff); George Ernest (Dave, as a boy), and Clara Blandick (The Landlady). Fuzzy Knight, labeled "the walking phonograph" by Thurber (Nigel Bruce), sings several melodies through his mountain walks, including "Trail of the Twilight" and "Melody from the Sky."
Of its many versions to this famous story, this 1936 release is the most famous due to frequent television broadcasts from the 1960s to the 1980s. Sylvia Sidney gets cast against type as a mountain girl, while Henry Fonda is cast in type as the vengeful mountain boy. While Sidney teamed with Fonda again in YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE (United Artists, 1937), she wouldn't work with MacMurray again until her guest star appearance in the 1969 episode of his "My Three Sons" (CBS) television series many years later. Of its leading players, Fred Stone is agreeable as the mountain father while Beulah Bondi comes off best as the peaceful wife and mother. Regardless of its fine cast (with their names credited during its opening printed on tree pines), beautiful Technicolor is its focal point throughout its 102 minutes.
Having become available on both video cassette and DVD, THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE, consisted on few cable television broadcasts, including the Disney Channel (1990s) and years later on Encore Westerns. Happy Trails. (***1/2)
You Only Live Once (1937)
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE (United Artists, 1937), produced by Walter Wanger/ directed by Fritz Lang, reunites Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda for the second and final time, following their initial screen union in THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE (Paramount, 1936). While the earlier film, produced in lavish Technicolor, with plenty of outdoor sets capturing its splendid beauty, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE is more dark and bleak in the European style of "film noir" tradition along with a story following the pattern of Lang's first American film, FURY (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1936) starring Sylvia Sidney and Spencer Tracy, this time only grimmer.
Joan "Jo" Graham (Sylvia Sidney) works as a secretary for public defender, Stephen Whitney (Barton MacLane). Though he secretly loves her, Jo's interest is more on Eddie Taylor (Henry Fonda), a three time loser in prison for petty larceny. With Whitney's help and assistance with the District Attorney (Jonathan Hale), they manage to get Taylor released after a three year stretch and reunited with Jo. Though Eddie promises both warden (John Wray) and prison priest, Father Dolan (William Gargan), that he will go straight, things as in the past don't work out for Eddie's upcoming future. Upon his marriage to Jo, and honeymooning at the Valley Tavern, Eddie is recognized by proprietors, Ethan (Charles "Chic" Sale) and his wife, Hester (Margaret Hamilton), and are both ordered to leave. Having acquired a truck driving position for the Ajax Express Company, Eddie is fired by his employer, Mr. Williams (William Pawley) more for being an ex-con than for coming in late. With Jo having moved into their new place, with no job, Eddie is unable to afford it. He fights the urge to go back to his old gang on a crime job. Unfortunately, his hat has been found connected with the armored car robbery , leading to Eddie's arrest for which he is innocent. With his past against him, Eddie faces trial , found guilty and sentenced to be executed. While on death row, Eddie manages to acquire a gun and shoot his way out of prison the very night of his execution which happens to be the very night it is learned of his innocence to walk out a free man. A murder occurs that changes all that. Reunited with Jo, they live lives as runaway fugitives, with uncertainty that awaits them. Also in the cast are Jean Dixon (Bonnie, Jo's sister); Jerome Cowan (Doctor Hill); Warren Hymer ("Buggsy"); Guinn Williams (Roger, the guard); Ward Bond and Wade Boteler in smaller roles.
As with FURY, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE is strictly drama, with little or no lighter moments, save for its opening at the public defender's office. With this production being dark and moody, it attempts as well as succeeds in becoming a replica of a Warner Brothers crime production. No doubt, the Eddie Taylor character might have, or could have been enacted by George Raft or Humphrey Bogart. The plot itself makes one thing of John Garfield and Priscilla Lane doing the exact same thing had it been offered to them.
Henry Fonda, who played country boys or romantic male co-star to top movie actresses, gets his real chance in something dramatic enough to establish Fonda as a strong and convincing actor. Typically, the Fonda character not only is a victim of society unwilling to give him a second chance on life, but also a desperate character unwilling to believe those trying to help him. Once more Sylvia Sidney plays the loyal girl who stands by her man regardless of he being a victim of circumstance. Fritz Lang's direction once again is hard-hitting and makes no apologies of avoiding cliches in similar themes such as this.
Shown frequently during the after midnight hours on commercial television in the 1970s, including New York City's WABC, Channel 7, as well as its Spanish station, WNJU, Channel 47 (New Jersey) with the movie shown and dubbed in Spanish, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, which has gained some momentum in the 1960s being compared to its recent crime melodrama, BONNIE AND CLYDE (Warner Brothers, 1967), availability on home video came in the early 1980s through Monterey Home Video at $39.95, and years later on DVD. Though listed at 85 minutes, current prints are two/three minutes shorter in length and in some need of audio restoration. Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere September 20, 2003) has been the only known cable channel in recent years to present YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE for rediscovery. Have a look. You only live once. (***)
A Victim of Circumstance
FURY (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1936), directed by Fritz Lang (title not to be confused with a 1955-1960 television series about a horse), is a powerful story about mob violence based on a story by Norman Krasna. In a production that could have been a worthy follow-up to Paul Muni's social injustice drama of I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (Warner Brothers, 1932), with innocent man accused of crime theme being very much in the Muni style, this became MGM's contribution to the social issues with grand mix of film noir, plot twists in the Alfred Hitchcock directorial manner, along with some European-style cinematography of super-imposing style by German director, Fritz Lang, in his Hollywood debut. Rather than featuring MGM contract player such as Maureen O'Sullivan as the leading lady, the studio acquired the services of Paramount's Sylvia Sidney. For her sole venture for MGM, this was also her one and only film opposite Spencer Tracy giving a very powerful performance.
Plot: Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy) and Katherine Grant (Sylvia Sidney) are deeply in love, but cannot marry until they each are able to earn enough money to support themselves. Katherine has accepted a teaching job in a small town out west while Joe remains in Chicago to make good on his success. After taking in a dog he names Rainbow, Joe joins forces with his brothers Charlie (Frank Albertson) and Tom (George Walcott) in the garage business. A year later, Joe has saved enough money in the bank to buy a car and marriage license to arrange for Katherine to take a bus and meet him at Sycamore Corners. During his long drive, Joe is stopped on the road by Bugs Meyers (Walter Brennan), a deputy sheriff, and taken to town for questioning where Sheriff Thad Hummel (Edward Ellis) informs Joe he's being held for suspicion of his association with a gang of kidnappers of a murdered child named Helen Peabody. With all the evidence against him, right down to liking peanuts and carrying a marked $5 bill used for ransom money, Joe is placed under arrest and jailed. In the meantime, Katherine awaits for Joe's arrival, until she learns of his fate. Katherine hurries to the town of Strand where she soon witnesses, to her horror, an angry mob outside putting the jail on fire, with Joe seen from his cell window crying for release. Katherine soon faints after a stick of dynamite explodes the building. She is soon is taken away by one of the bystanders. Joe's brothers locate Katherine's whereabouts to find her in a state of shock until one of them fires a match to light a cigarette. What the brothers don't tell her is that Joe had survived the ordeal and with their help, avenges his "murder" on those 22 people involved in his lynching now facing their trial by jury after the real kidnappers have confessed to their crime. The supporting cast consists of Walter Abel (District Attorney Adams); Bruce Cabot (Kirby Dawson); Jonathan Hale (Defense Attorney); Leila Bennett (Edna Hooper); Esther Dale (Mrs. Whipple); Helen Flint and Harvey Clark, among others.
Though Sylvia Sidney gets star billing, FURY rightfully belongs to Spencer Tracy from start to finish. His performance alone should have honored him an Academy Award as Best Actor. Oddly enough, Tracy did get nominated for a more prestigious film of SAN FRANCISCO (1936) starring Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald. With long stretches with extended operatic and earthquake sequences, along with the story more in favor of Gable and MacDonald, Tracy's fine performance rightfully belonged more in the "best supporting actor" rather than Best Actor category. On a personal level, Tracy was nominated for the wrong movie. His performance in FURY is convincingly portrayed, from law abiding, simple-minded carefree individual to a hard-hitting vengeful man full of hate against society. Sylvia Sidney makes her typical performance from her Paramount melodramas into something stronger under Fritz Lang's dark and moody 94 minute production. With opening and closing dark background credits, no underscoring during the mob lynching scene, there's courtroom scenes that's both well-acted and staged. Sidney would act under Fritz Lang again in YOU ONLY LOVE ONCE (United Artists, 1937) opposite Henry Fonda, with story and theme similar in spots of FURY, with Lang making no amends for its heavily dramatic climax.
FURY was one of those movies I recall being advertised for broadcasting on New York CIty's WNEW, Channel 5, in 1970. Eagerly awaiting to see FURY, it was postponed with a last minute substitute showing of another Spencer Tracy drama, THE PEOPLE AGAINST O'HARA (1951). FURY was never rescheduled, and I had to wait for my first viewing of it by the mid 1980s. Though not as well known as other Tracy movies, the one thing about FURY is that, once seen, it's hard to forget. Distributed on video cassette in the 1990s, and DVD years later, FURY can be seen on cable television's Turner Classic Movies from time to time. Highly recommended. (***1/2)
Our Blushing Brides (1930)
The Young and the Reckless
OUR BLUSHING BRIDES (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1930), directed by Harry Beaumont, with dialogue and continuity by John Howard Lawson and Bess Meredyth, reunites the cast (Joan Crawford, Anita Page and Dorothy Sebastian) and director (Beaumont) from the 1928 success, OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (MGM, 1928), in another follow-up to Crawford and Page's silent drama, OUR MODERN MAIDENS (MGM, 1929), directed by Jack Conway. For this treatment, it's another story about a trio of young women with their encounter of three millionaires men who have changed their lives.
The plot development introduces Jerry March (Joan Crawford), Connie Blaire (Anita Page) and Francine "Franky" Daniels (Dorothy Sebastian), who share an apartment at 153 West 91st Street, working for Jardine and Company in New York City. As the employees prepare themselves for another hard day at work, Jerry, after modeling some of the latest clothing fashions, attracts the attention of Tony Jardine (Robert Montgomery), the older son of the department store owner, whose younger brother, David (Raymond Hackett), is already romantically involved with Connie, whom he plans to marry. While serving Martin W. Sanderson (John Miljan), Francine, who believes him to be a millionaire, attracts his attention enough to send his items to the Plaza Hotel, as well as giving him her address and phone number for a date. Overnight, Francine marries Sanderson, unaware of his past reputation, while Connie quits her job to be with David. As for Jerry, who resumes her job as department store mannequin, would soon have her on again, off again attraction with Tony due to her mistrust in men, especially after seeing what wrong they have done to her two best and closest friends. Also in the cast is Robert Emmett O'Connor (The Detective); Martha Sleeper (Evelyn Woodforth); Albert Conti (Monsieur Pantoise); Gwen Lee, Claire Dodd (The Mannequins); and Louise Beavers (Amelia, the Maid). Edward Brophy provides humor as Joseph Aloysius Munsey, a man who telephones Jerry for a date, with little luck in attracting her attention.
Interesting to note of a handful of silent movies that have been remade into talkies, even only a few short years after its initial release, that MGM didn't consider of remaking OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS as a 1930 talkie using the same principle cast. The studio went further using the same leading ladies but having them playing different characters using both different story male co-stars. At 101 minutes (along with two minute closing music to the song "Sing" introduced in DOUGHBOYS (1930) starring Buster Keaton), OUR BLUSHING BRIDES takes some time before the actual story gets underway. Regardless of background introduction and extended department store and Long Island estate fashion show involving models in winter sports, evening gowns and costume ball gowns, plus an overhead dancing glimpse in the Busby Berkeley choreography tradition, OUR BLUSHING BRIDES is seldom dull. Joan Crawford, sporting a wig for one scene, indicates she doesn't look bad as a blonde. Aside from her female co-stars, she also works well with Robert Montgomery, her co-star in four additional films for MGM. Of the girl trio, Anita Page comes off best with her performance. Both her and Sebastian's careers would fade shortly after this film's release, while Crawford's legend would climb and prosper for the next three decades.
OUR BLUSHING BRIDES, being the last of the "Our" trilogy, would be rediscovered in later years with cable television showings as Turner Network Television (1989-90) and Turner Classic Movies (1994-present), and availability on DVD. Other than being rarely televised, its prime interest is the presence of both Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery early in their careers. (**1/2)
Our Modern Maidens (1929)
The Young and the Foolish
OUR MODERN MAIDENS (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1929), directed by Jack Conway, is not a sequel to Joan Crawford's earlier success, OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (1928). It is more of either a companion piece or sequel in name only with basically the same co-stars (Anita Page and Edward Nugent), and scenario by Josephine Lovett, who also scripted DAUGHTERS. With male co-stars of Rod LaRocque and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in place of John Mack Brown and Nils Asther, there's also blonde Josephine Dunn as the third girl member filling in for Dorothy Sebastian. Being a late silent movie release during the popularity of talkies, OUR MODERN MAIDENS consists of original orchestral repetitive soundtrack to tune, "Should I?" along with crowd noises, talking sequences of radio announcer and choir singing "Here Comes the Bride," as opposed of being a part-talkie with spoken voices provided by its leading actors.
Opening title: "The night after the Stearns School Commencement prom - all roads led to roam." The story opens with a group of young couples in cars drive down the road during the way after midnight hours stopping briefly to dance while listening to music on the radio. Billie Brown (Joan Crawford), daughter of B. Bickering Brown (Albert Gran), business tycoon and manufacturer of Brown Deluxe Motor Cars, receives an engagement ring from Gilbert "Gil" Jordan (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr,), her escort and sweetheart. Aside from keeping her engagement a secret, she intends on making him a business success in Paris before becoming his wife. On a seven-eleven train back home with her friends the following early morning, Billie encounters Glenn Abbott (Rod LaRocque), who's picture she's seen in the newspaper, being a well-noted diplomat millionaire. She uses his influence to help Gil. After inviting him to her 4th of July party, her attention moves more towards Glenn than the jealous Gil. He soon seeks comfort with Billie's best friend, "Kentucky" Strafford (Anita Page), who not only secretly loves Gil, but becomes romantically involved with him. After Glenn, who has fallen in love with Billie, reads about her engagement in the newspapers, he leaves her for his estate in Argentine. Billie, in turn, goes on with her upcoming marriage to Gil, unaware that Kentucky holds more secrets inside herself other than losing the man she loves. Josephine Dunn (The gossiping Ginger) and Edward Nugent (Ginger's beau, Reg) complete the major cast in secondary roles.
While not in the same league as OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS, OUR MODERN MAIDENS is agreeable entertainment, more for its underscoring than its routine plot. Another bonus includes Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (then married to Joan Crawford in real life), during a party sequence, imitating popular silent actors of the day, including John Barrymore (as Jekyll and Hyde); John Gilbert kissing a Greta Garbo imitator, and his very own father, Douglas Fairbanks, as Robin Hood. There's also interesting camera shots, slant angles, pan-back of party guests of the dance floor of lavish art-deco sets. OUR MODERN MAIDENS has the distinction of being a rare silent movie available to contemporary audiences of Rod LaRocque, a once famous but now long forgotten leading man of the 1920s. Unlike her appearance in her talking debut of THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929) where Anita Page looks a bit overweight, here she's both slim and beautiful.
When first shown on Turner Classic Movies dating back to the 1990s, prints to OUR MODERN MAIDENS clocked at only one hour. After 2000, circulating prints have been extended to 75 minutes, with possibly Fairbanks' actor imitation among the missing scenes now restored. Distributed on video cassette, OUR MODERN MAIDENS is also available intact on DVD. It also led to another similar titled production, OUR BLUSHING BRIDES (1930), Joan Crawford reunited with Dorothy Sebastian and Anita Page once more, and Robert Montgomery as the new male co-star. Again, no sequel nor recurring characters returning from previous film(s), but another love triangle in full sound and longer length. (**)
Internes Can't Take Money (1937)
Doctor Kildare's Criminal Case
INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY (Paramount, 1937), directed by Alfred Santell, is a medical drama based on the story by Max Brand, creator of the Doctor Kildare character. It also is the movie that introduces Doctor Kildare to the screen. Though many film historians believe Lew Ayres to be the original Doctor Kildare of the movies, it is an unknown fact that this first Kildare of the screen was actually played by Joel McCrea. With no Doctor Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore in the Ayres series) as his supervisor and mentor, nor setting at Blair General Hospital as depicted in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer series (1938-1942), this introduction to the noteworthy character is less hospital melodrama combining sentimentality and crime drama using two separate stories for two basic characters.
Following camera tracking to various medical rooms where young interns in clinics are taking care of patients and their needs, Jimmie Kildare (Joel McCrea) is introduced as a young interne at Mounview General Hospital making $10 a month treating a second degree burn on left forearm wrist of Janice Haley (Barbara Stanwyck), who later faints of malnutrition. Later that evening, Doctor Howard J. Pearson (Pierre Watkin), hospital superintendent, gathers his staff together for the dismissal of Interne Weeks (Lee Bowman), a friend of Kildare's, for experimental liver operation on a patient who has died. While comforting Weeks at the nearby bar, Janice enters to meet with Dan Innes (Stanley Ridges), a gangster. It is revealed that Janice is a widow of Jim Haley, bank robber who had taken her 11 month baby and hidden her someplace. Having served a two year prison term for not revealing information about her husband's criminal activities, Janice, now paroled, comes to the racketeer hoping for information regarding the whereabouts of her now three-year-old daughter. Innes agrees to help her for $1,000, which she does not have. In the meantime, Kildare encounters Hanlon (Lloyd Nolan), a racketeer who enters the bar only to keel over due to severe knife wound. Kildare secretly takes the injured gangster to the back room of the bar and off the record does an immediate operation to save his life. Later, Kildare receives an envelope with $1,000 cash from bartender known as "One Eyed" Jeff (Irving Bacon). When Janice learns Kildare's money she desperately needs to find her child, her attempt to steal the envelope fails. Kildare gives back the money to Hanlon only because the "internes can't take money." Coming to terms with hospital rules, Hanlon agrees to assist Kildare with any favors needed. When Kildare learns of Janice's history, he comes to Hanlon for assistance, at the risk of losing his own medical career if caught. Also in the cast are: Barry Macollum (Stooley Martin); Charles Lane (Grote, the gambler who must earn the money lost to Innes by acting as his butler); Lillian Harmer (Mrs. Mooney, the Landlady); Fay Holden (Mother Theresa) and Gaylord Pendleton (Interne Jones).
Being the only "Doctor Kildare" movie produced by Paramount and featuring Joel McCrea, this is a good introduction to the Max Brand character. It also marks the third of six screen collaborations of Stanwyck and McCrea, with INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY being one of their most underrated. Though Kildare is still the central character, the premise focuses more on the Stanwyck character, giving a standout performance and given extreme facial close-ups with realistic teary-eyedbuildup scenes that work with conviction. Stanwyck is most believable in her role of a desperate mother going through extremes searching for her infant child. Heartfelt moments include Stanwyck overlooking little sad looking three-year-old girls in orphanage, hoping one of them would be her very own daughter. Lloyd Nolan and Stanley Ridges give commendable performances as mobsters, with Nolan being more sympathetic through his tough guy image.
Unseen on commercial television since the late 1970s (notably WPIX, Channel 11 in New York City prior to 1973, and some showings on New Jersey's WTVG, Channel 68 (1976-1978), INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY, which has, to date, never been shown in cable TV, did become available in 1995 on video cassette and DVD in 2013. Regardless of crime melodrama, sentiment and medical issues, INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY is worthy screen 77 minute , thanks to its fine casting of actors and direction that rise above average script material. (***)
The Gilded Lily (1935)
Something About Romance
THE GILDED LILY (Paramount, 1935), directed by Wesley Ruggles, suggested by the story by Melville Baker and Jack Kirkland, is a delightful comedy starring Claudette Colbert in her first pairing opposite two young actors on the rise: Fred MacMurray and Ray Milland. Though Colbert had already starred in earlier comedies as THREE-CORNERED MOON (Paramount, 1933) and her loan-out assignment of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (Columbia, 1934), for which she won the Academy Award as Best Actress, THE GILDED LILY would actually be the start in similar themes such as this, several more opposite MacMurray up to 1948. Asnmuch as THE GILDED LILY is only a title, for which there is no such character in the story named Lily, and this being no relation to a 1921 Paramount silent starring Mae Murray of the same name, this is actually an original story about a working girl named Marilyn.
With an opening view of New York's Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the story introduces best friends, Marilyn David (Claudette Colbert), a stenographer, and Pete Dawes (Fred MacMurray), a smooth talking newspaper reporter, sitting on a park bench where they meet every Thursday night at Bryant Park - he munching on a bag of popcorn with his shoes off, and she discussing about her future to one day meet the man of her dreams. Marilyn eventually does when she encounters Charles Gray (Ray Milland) at a crowded subway station involving a pushy subway guard (Edward Gargan). She rescues him from a fight leading to the street and her involvement with him - to a point of having him look for a job, an evening at Coney Island amusement park, a day at the beach and time together at the same park bench she and Pete meet once a week. Falling in love with her, Charles, actually Charles Granville, a British nobleman secretly visiting New York with his father (C. Aubrey Smith), the Lord of Donshore, resumes his incognito from Marilyn until he returns to England to break off his engagement with Helen Fergus. Assigned by his managing editor (Charles C. Wilson) to cover a story on the visiting Granvilles, Pete locates them boarding a ship bound for England to get the latest scoop. While reading Pete's article about them in the newspaper, Marilyn is both surprised and upset the nobleman to be her dream man. To capitalize on this romance, Pete builds up his story of desertion between Charles and Marilyn. After Marilyn quits her job and through Nate's (Luis Alberni) idea, Pete goes even further with his publicity stunt labeling Marilyn "The No Girl" singing and dancing at Nate's Gincham Cafe. Marilyn's celebrity status leads both her and Pete to perform in Southampton, England, where Marilyn and Charles meet once more. Others in the cast are: Eddie Craven (Eddie, Pete's photographer pal); Donald Meek (Mr. Hankerson, Marilyn's employer); Forrester Harvey (Hugo Martin, the innkeeper); Grace Bradley (Daisy); Tom Dugan (The Hobo); Ferdinand Munier (Otto Buische), and Warren Hymer (The Taxi Driver).
With some amusement bits involving Colbert's drunken scene and singing and dancing to the tune of "Something About Romance," the chemistry between her and MacMurray is evident from their very first scene together. Aside from this being MacMurray's first movie with Colbert, it was also his first important movie role that elevated him to leading man status, along with future films together with Colbert. Ray Milland, in a secondary role, would soon elevate to star stature himself, including his reunion pairing opposite Colbert in both ARISE, MY LOVE (1940) and SKYLARK (1941). While the pace for THE GILDED LILY slows up some near the end, the overall 80 minutes remains both likable and enjoyable production.
Quite popular in its day, followed by frequent television revivals from the 1960s to the 1980s, by today's standards, THE GILDED LILY is close to being forgotten and overlooked among classic film comedies. It did include cable televisions broadcasts on American Movie Classics (1990-91) and an unannounced presentation on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 5, 2010) to promote its DVD distribution together with other Colbert/MacMurray comedys (THE BRIDE COMES HOME and FAMILY HONEYMOON (1948)) in the box-set. THE GILDED LILY is no doubt the top of the list of its trio of comedies that should still be entertaining today as it was back in 1935. (***1/2 bags of popcorn)
Second Fiddle (1939)
SECOND FIDDLE (20th Century-Fox, 1939), directed by Sidney Lanield, reunites Olympic skating champion Sonja Henie with Tyrone Power (her previous co-star from THIN ICE (1937)), for the second and final time. A Hollywood story (which should have been titled MY LUCKY STAR, a title already used for Heinie's college musical), with original new score by Irving Berlin, which oddly enough did not produce any song hits, is probably one of the main reasons for this being overlooked and forgotten through the passage of time.
The story starts in 1938 with the best selling novel "Girl of the North" acquiring the screen rights by Consolidated Pictures for a movie version. A nation-wide talent search is formed with countless screen tests going on to 1939 to which actress is the right choice for the leading role of Violet Jasen. None seem to be just right until Jimmy Sutton (Tyrone Power), a smooth-talking publicist working under George "Whit" Whitney (Alan Dinehart), discovers Photo No. 436 of Trudi Hovland, a schoolteacher from Bergen, Minnesota, to be the girl with possibilities. Taking the next airplane to Minnesota, Jimmy meets with Trudi (Sonja Henie), unaware that Willie Hogger (Lyle Talbot), her boyfriend of three years whom she does not love, to be the one who secretly submitted her photo to the studio. Feeling she's no actress to assume an leading role major motion picture, Trudi turns down the offer to come to Hollywood for a screen test. However, the fast-thinking Jimmy talks her into going, accompanied by her protective Aunt Phoebe (Edna May Oliver), to take her leave of absence from school to see how it goes. Much to her surprise, Trudi wins the leading role as "Girl of the North." In order to keep her in Hollywood to finish the movie, Jimmy creates a staged romance between her and Roger Maxwell (Rudy Vallee), a singer and leading man, whose girlfriend, Jean Varick (Mary Healy), finds herself taking second fiddle to the man she loves. During the course of time, Jimmy finds himself playing second fiddle to Trudy as he slowly begins to realize his love for her. Also in the cast include: Minna Gombell (Jenny, the columnist); Spencer Charters (Joe Clayton); George Chandler, Irving Bacon and Maurice Cass. Specialties include The Brian Sister, the King Sisters, along with Stewart Reburn as Henie's skating partner and Dick Redman as Freddie, the little boy skater. While character actor Charles Lane is credited in the cast, only his familiar voice as the studio chief is heard numerous times via intercom.
Songs include: "An Old-Fashioned Tune" (sung by Rudy Vallee); "The Song of the Metro Nome," "The Song of theMetro Nome" (reprise/skating number); "Back to Back" (sung by Mary Healy); "When Winter Comes," and "I poured My Heart into a Song" (both sung by Rudy Vallee); "I'm Sorry for Myself" (sung by Mary Healy); and "I Poured My Heart into a Song" (skating sequence by Sonja Henie). Though the score by Irving Berlin didn't produce hits as "Cheek to Cheek," he did come up with a lively tune of "Back to Back" along with an interesting balled "I'm Sorry for Myself" sung in great voice by Mary Healy, a tune that makes one think of Ethel Merman had she sung this particular song herself.
Those seeing SECOND FIDDLE in 1939 would notice similarities to this story along with producer David O. Selznick's notable search for the role of Scarlet O'Hara in the Civil War epic of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939). Around the same time when 20th Century-Fox studio would acquire services of legendary singer, Al Jolson, past his prime, for a couple of secondary roles (ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE and SWANEE RIVER), the studio also contracted former vagabond lover, Rudy Vallee, in support singing a few songs as well. With Sonja Henie also playing a skating teacher would be an excuse for a couple of skating production numbers thrown in. Tyrone Power shows his flare for comedy as a publicity man, yet not performing in a fast-talking, speedy performance of Pat O'Brien of Warner Brothers.
With some star quality and lively story, it seems odd SECOND FIDDLE did have limited television revivals over the years. Other than distribution on video cassette in 1994, it did have its cable television broadcasts only so briefly as Cinemax (1986) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: February 9, 2012). Maybe not the classic as Henie's other films as SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941), but worth viewing considering the assortment for its time a great number of "movies about the movies," and fine lighthearted comedy spoofing itself along the way. (***1/2)
The Courtship of Andy Hardy (1942)
Judge Hardy's Family Values
THE COURTSHIP OF ANDY HARDY (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1942), directed by George B. Seitz, marks the 12th installment to the popular "Judge Hardy's Family/Andy Hardy" series featuring series regulars of Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker, Fay Holden, Sara Haden and Ann Rutherford. With the series success being more on star quality and family values, and sometimes an introduction to the screen of future major stars as Kathryn Grayson as ANDY HARDY'S PRIVATE SECRETARY (1941) or Esther Williams in ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE (1942), THE COURTSHIP OF ANDY HARDY is a stepping ground for Donna Reed. Though not her introduction to the screen, having few prior movies roles since 1941, it would be her showcase for her as a troubled teenager caught in the middle of her parent's divorce custody.
Resuming its standard location to the small town of Carvel, the story opens traditionally in Judge Hardy's courtroom where the judge (Lewis Stone) is handling a maritial separation case for Roderick O. (Harvey Stephens) and Olivia Nesbit (Frieda Inescort), whose young daughter, Melodie (Donna Reed), known to high school students as a "droop," wants nothing to do with them, even confessing to the judge that even she hates her father, leading to the judge to look deeper into the case. Next plot development shifts to Hardy's son, Andrew (Mickey Rooney), a high school graduate now working at Pete Dugan's (Joseph Crehan) garage, using his jalopy to help a stranded visiting businessman, Stewart Willis (Steve Cornell), to toll his car to the garage for service, only to unwittingly lose his customer who later accuses him of stealing his auto, and file charges. This only after Andy gets a ticket from a policeman for driving his car without license plates. In the meantime, the family gets together at the train station welcoming home their eldest daughter, Marian (Cecilia Parker) following her trip to New York City, only to find her personality changed to big city girl with culture snubbing Carvel. She encounters Jefferson Willis (William Lundigan), a man-about-town, at the station, unaware of his serious boozing habits. While Aunt Milly (Sara Haden) has no problems to speak of, it's her sister, Emily (Fay Holden) who becomes involved in a mail-order swindle of $61.60 which she must pay or the collection agency will assume charges against her. As a favor for his father, Andy gets talked into taking the lonely and embittered Melodie out for a good time. While she actually knows of his intentions, Melodie becomes his date anyway at the high school alumni dance where Harry Land (Todd Karns) become interested in her, and being the only one among Andy's friends not to get paid for dancing with her. Further problems arise when Melodie overhears something to want to leave Carvel and parents altogether. Others in the cast include Erville Alderson (The Bailiff); Georgie Breakston ("Beezy" Anderson), Betty Wells (Susie), Floyd Schackelford (Joe) and Junior Coughlan ("Red"). Interestingly, series regular, Ann Rutherford as Polly Benedict, Andy's girlfriend, would only get a few minutes into the story while the sentence for drunk-driving Lundigan's character would actually get settled by the judge into the next installment, ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE (1942).
Unlike the previous and very melodramatic effort of LIFE BEGINS FOR ANDY HARDY (1941), THE COURTSHIP OF ANDY HARDY resumes to formula material with some humor with enough individual plot situations for one movie for its 95 minutes. Aside from a 15 minute segment involving individual family members of Marion, Aunt Milly, Andy and Mrs. Hardy getting to converse their problems with the wise old judge in his den, and the judge getting adjusted to the more modern slang terms, Donna Reed gets her moment assuming the role of two basic characters, that of a homely quiet and unpopular girl who spends time alone listening to opera , to an attractive down-to-earth girl with dynamic personality. Reed and Mickey Rooney would share another movie together, THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943), though their scenes in that classic, and Rooney's best film, are limited.
Never distributed to home video, THE COURTSHIP OF ANDY HARDY often plays on cable television's Turner Classic Movies and available on DVD as part of the Andy Hardy collection for fans of the series. (**1/2)
Repeat Performance (1947)
Same Time, Last Year
REPEAT PERFORMANCE (Eagle-Lion Studios, 1947), directed by Alfred L. Werker, became this independent studio's initial attempt on a major motion picture. Taken from a 1941 novel by William O'Farrell, and starring Louis Hayward and Joan Leslie, REPEAT PERFORMANCE has often been compared to an earlier release of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (RKO Radio, 1946) starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, in a story set on Christmas Eve revolving around a man getting his chance to see how his life would have been had he not been born. For REPEAT PERFORMANCE, set on New Year's Eve, the central character here wants to relive her previous year so to amend any mistakes made resulting to her tragic outcome.
Opening with an off-screen narration (reportedly by John Ireland) who provides viewers what to expect: "The stars look down on New Year's Eve in New York. They say that fate is in the stars, that each of our year is planned ahead and nothing can change destiny. Is this true? How many times have you said, "I wish I can live this year over again?" This is the story of a woman who did relive one year of her life." The story begins minutes before the strike of Midnight for the New Year of 1947. Gun shots are heard and a woman, identified as Sheila Page (Joan Leslie), an actress of the Broadway play, "Say Goodbye," is seen standing in over her victim, Barney (Louis Hayward), her husband and drunken failed playwright, now deceased. With pounding on the door, the frightened Sheila runs out the back way into the crowded street of New Year's celebrators. Entering a crowded restaurant, Sheila comes to the table of her friend, William Williams (Richard Basehart), leaving his guests to be told elsewhere what she had done. As they leave for the apartment of Sheila's friend and producer, John Friday (Tom Conway) for assistance, Sheila makes a wish to herself wanting to relive 1946 all over again. Suddenly, Sheila finds herself transformed back in time, this time knowing what to expect yet hoping to prevent any mistakes leading to her husband's murder. Others in the cast are Virginia Field (Paula Costello, playwright); Natalie Schafer (Eloise Shaw, a socialite); Ilka Gruning (Mattie, the Maid), and Jean Del Val (Tony, the Waiter).
Often classified as a "film noir" with ingredients of murder and flashback, REPEAT PERFORMANCE is a different type of film noir where flashback isn't played for the benefit of its audience but the central character . This style could be labeled "fantasy noir" without the fantasy elements attached to it. This new premise is good enough to hold interest throughout its 93 minutes.
Regardless of Louis Hayward heading the cast, REPEAT PERFORMANCE is Joan Leslie's film from start to finish. Type-cast as girl-next-door types for Warner Brothers Studio (1941-1946), REPEAT PERFORMANCE was the sort of role Leslie needed to prove she could play mature roles with conviction. Though labeled by many to be her finest screen performance up to that time, her subsequent roles, often forgettable, failed to give her this same opportunity again. Interestingly, Leslie got to appear in its 1989 made for television re-title remake of TURN BACK THE CLOCK starring Connie Sellecca, with Leslie having a cameo playing a party guest. Louis Hayward makes due as her boozing playwright husband who falls clutches to another playwright (Virginia Field) of the theater. Tom Conway resumes his droll suave character type he had done for RKO Radio in the "Falcon" mystery series (1942-1946), while Richard Basehart (in movie debut) nearly steals the show as Leslie's closest friend and poet, William Williams. It is his character, who later realizes he's also living 1946 all over again, to be the one to come up with the result whether if destiny can be changed or will the outcome always remain the same?
Though REPEAT PERFORMANCE did have numerous commercial television broadcasts dating back to the 1950s, particularly New York City where it last played in June 1978 on WNEW, Channel 5, the film in itself did have limited cable television showings (Arts and Entertainment) in 1986 before disappearing from view for many years to come. With no known availability on video cassette, thanks to Turner Classic Movies cable for giving REPEAT PERFORMANCE its long overdue revival (TCM premiere: December 28, 2019) on its weekly series, "Noir Alley" as hosted by Eddie Muller with his very interesting insights on the movie and actors before and after the movie, with hope with future revivals or repeat performances to make this a better known product from the "film noir" genre. (***)
Pistols and Petticoats
DIXIANA (RKO Radio, 1930), adapted and directed by Luther Reed, was the studio's follow-up to its highly successful RIO RITA (1929) by reuniting its director with lead performers of Bebe Daniels, Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey and Dorothy Lee. Though John Boles appeared as Daniels' love interest in the the Florenz Ziegfeld stage musical of RIO RITA, this latest edition, an original premise with story and lyrics by Anne Caldwell, features baritone Everett Marshall in his place. Shifting settings from Mexico to the old pre-Civil War South, DIXIANA also repeats the final celebration event with filmed Technicolor process with lavish sets and costumes.
Set in 1840s New Orleans, the story opens with Carl Van Horn (Everett Marshall), whose father, Cornelius (Joseph Cawthorne), better known as the Philadelphia Dutchman, watching the slaves on his Southern plantation. Carl loves Dixiana Caldwell (Bebe Daniels), a circus performer at Cayetano's Hyppodrome, whom he wants to marry. After watching Dixiana perform for the audience, Carl encounters her rival suitor, Montagu (Ralf Harolde) who would rather pistol dual with him than lose the petticoat circus girl he loves. Regardless, Carl proposes and she happily accepts, taking her circus friends, Peewee (Bert Wheeler) and Ginger Dandy (Robert Woolsey) along with her to Carl's plantation for the festivity with his family at his plantation. Unfortunately, Carl's social-climbing stepmother, Birdie (Jobyna Howland) disapproves of both future bride and her "distinguished gentlemen" friends enough to insult them in front of guests. Not wanting to come between Carl and his family, Dixiana leaves with her friends to return to the circus, only to find herself working for Montagu and company at his New Orleans gambling house instead. As Peewee and Ginger are reunited with their old friend, Nanny (Dorothy Lee), Dixiana encounters Carl once more, finding him losing heavily at the gambling tables to his enemy, Montagu. Others in the cast are Edward Chandler (Blondell); and Eugene Jackson (Cupid).
Songs by Harry Tierney, Anne Caldwell and Benny Davis are as follows: "Mr. and Mrs. Sippi" (sung by Everett Marshall during opening titles); "Dixiana" (sung by chorus); "I Am Your Lady Love" (sung by Bebe Daniels); "Here's to the Old Days" (sung by Marshall); "A Tear, a Kiss, a Smile" (sung by Daniels); "My Generation: (sung by chorus/Daniels); "My One Ambition is You" (sung by Bert Wheeler and Dorothy Lee); "Dixiana" (sung by Daniels); "My One Ambition is You" (chorus, background score); "Dixiana," "No Matter Who Wins, I'm Lost" (sung by Daniels); "Dixiana," "Mardi Gras," "A Love Loved a Soldier" (sung by Robert Woolsey); "Mr. and Mrs. Sippi" (tap dance solo by Bill Robinson); "You Are My Guiding Star" (sung by Marshall and Daniels), "Here's to the Old Days" (instrumental) and "Dixiana" (finale). Of its handful of tunes "Here's to the Old Days" appears to be the film's best song while Bill Robinson's tap dancing being the film's other highlight.
Regardless of DIXIANA not being as successful as RIO RITA, possibly because of its lack of chemistry between Daniels and Marshall (who resembles Mexican actor Antonio Moreno), their scenes together are actually limited due to extensive footage more on the battling married couple (Joseph Cawthorne and Jobyna Howland), song numbers and the comic antics provided by Wheeler and Woolsey, particularly their gag involving participants picking up three cigars individually without saying "ouch."
DIXIANA would be Daniels' last musical for the studio before shifting to straight dramatic roles for RKO and later Warner Brothers before returning to a musical role in the now classic 42nd STREET (1933). Marshall on the other hand would appear in one more motion picture, I LIVE FOR LOVE (Warner Brothers, 1935) opposite Dolores Del Rio. Marshall might have had a chance in musical films, but disappeared after two movie roles to his resume. For the last Wheeler and Woolsey where they work as supporting players, they would star in a series of fine comedies for the studio (1930-1937).
For many years, it was claimed that the final 20-minute Technicolor sequence featuring Bill Robinson's tap dance solo was lost. When DIXIANA was sold to television (namely New York City's WOR, Channel 9 in November 1956), the movie played with the closing left unresolved. This incomplete print was later distributed to video cassette from Video Yesteryear in the 1980s. Fortunately, the Technicolor conclusion had been found, restored and surfaced in revival movie houses, and cable television starting with Turner Network Television (TNT) in December 1988, followed by American Movie Classics (1991-1993) and finally Turner Classic Movies (after 1994) before availability in full 98 minute glory on DVD. Though uneven in spots, DIXIANA is worthwhile rediscovery of musicals produced during the early days of sound. (** cigars)
Rio Rita (1929)
South of the Border
RIO RITA (RKO Radio Production, 1929), adapted and directed by Luther Reed, was one of two early screen musicals personally supervised and produced by Florenz Ziegfeld (the other being Samuel Goldwyn's WHOOPEE (1930) starring Eddie Cantor). A reworking of the 1927 Ziegfeld stage musical starring Ethelind Terry and J. Harold Murray, this RKO adaptation stars screen personalities Bebe Daniels (in her talking movie debut) and John Boles, supported by the comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey reprising their original stage roles. While there is a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1942 update of RIO RITA starring another comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, with Kathryn Grayson and John Carroll in the Daniels and Boles roles, this original is often claimed to be more faithful and much better to the original stage treatment by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson.
The screen adaptation basically consists of two separate storieson one: Captain Jim Stewart (John Boles)of the Texas Rangers is assigned to border trace Kinkajou, a bandit with a $10,000 price reward for his capture, dead or alive. Suspecting Roberto Ferguson (Don Alvarado) to be the bank robber, tracks him down to to the Freemont Cafe in Mexico. After leaving, a bank robbery takes place by which Kinkajou escapes without capture once more. Jim meets up with Roberto's sister, Rita (Bebe Daniels), residing on a ranch at the Rio Grande. Keeping his identity a secret, Jim falls in love Rita, making it difficult for him to place Roberto under arrest if captured. Rita, however, is loved by Russian General Ravenoff (Georges Renavent), whom she dislikes, unaware that he has abducted and hidden her brother away for reasons of his own. The subplot revolves around Chick Bean (Bert Wheeler) from New York with his personal representative lawyer, Ed Levitt (Robert Woolsey), arranging for his divorce arrangements from Kate (Helen Kaiser) so Chick could marry cafe entertainer, Dolly (Dorothy Lee). Upon his wedding followed by a Mexican honeymoon, Levitt informs Chick that he will be arrested for bigamy, after learning the divorce proceedings is not valid. Others in the cast are Eva Rosita (Carmen); Tiny Sanford (Tiny) and Lita Chevret (Louie's Wife), among others.
While the initial roadshow 141 minute version of RIO RITA, including opening and closing overture with intermission title card, prints currently in circulation are reportedly the strongly edited 103 minute version from its 1932 reissue. minus some song interludes and plot elements pertaining to the story. The song numbers (by Harry Tierney and Joe McCarthy) from the uncut version include are reportedly as follows: "Jumping Bean" and "The Kinkajou" (both sung by Dorothy Lee); "Sweethearts" and "The River Song" (both sung by Bebe Daniels); "Rio Rita" (duet by John Boles and Bebe Daniels); "Siesta Time" (sung by chorus); "Espanola" (sung by Robert Woolsey); "Are You There?" (sung by Dorothy Lee and Bert Wheeler); "The Ranger Song" (sung by John Boles and rangers); "You're Always in My Arms, But Only in my Dreams" (sung by Boles, reprised by Daniels, written by E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arle); "The Spanish Shawl" (sung by Eva Rosita); "If You're in Love, You'll Waltz" (sung by Bebe Daniels); "Out on the Loose" (sung/ tap dance by Bert Wheeler, featuring overhead camera shot of chorus in the Busby Berkeley directorial style); "Poor Fool" (sung by Bebe Daniels); "Over the Boundary Line" (sung by chorus); "Sweetheart, We Need Each Other" (sung by Bert Wheeler and Dorothy Lee, reprised by Dorothy Lee and Helen Kaiser); and "You're Always in My Arms, But Only in My Dreams" (finale). Of its songs, "The Ranger Song" and "Sweetheart, We Need Each Other" are both tuneful highlights. Boles and Daniels are in fine singing voice while the comedy antics of Wheeler and Woolsey, including their drunken scene as they envision a naked woman, was humorous enough to be reworked into the Abbott and Costello 1942 edition. Some scenes are heavily underscored, causing the dialogue to be hard to hear and understand.
Reportedly the studio's biggest and most expensive production of that time, RIO RITA its shorter reissue suffers from missing footage that would have proven more favorable viewing with connected plot and character developments. For several years, I've avoided reviewing this particular title hoping that complete version of RIO RITA would become available for proper critique. According to an article in Variety printed in 1979, New York City's Museum of Modern Art obtained the complete print for its showing for its 50th anniversary tribute to RKO Radio. Sadly, I was unable to attend this screening, hoping for another chance at a latter date. Modern sources now claim the roadshow version is now lost with shorter version, available for viewing on cable television's Turner Classic Movies since September 1996, and DVD later on, to be the only one in existence. Fortunately, the Technicolor sequence taking up the final half hour set on the Pirate Barge remains intact.
RKO reunited Bebe Daniels with Wheeler and Woolsey (with Everett Marshall in for John Boles) again in similar style production with Technicolor finale of DIXIANA (1930), but results weren't the same. Regardless of its age and the film that introduced Wheeler and Woolsey to the screen, RIO RITA is a prime example to how the Florenz Ziegfeld musical must have been presented on stage. (***)
Show Boat (1929)
The Lady and the Gambler
SHOW BOAT (Universal, 1929), a Carl Laemmle Super Production directed by Harry A. Pollard, is a part-talking/part-silent screen adaptation based more on the dramatic story by Edna Ferber's book than the then successful 1927 Florenz Ziegfeld Broadway musical by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern. Remade most famously by Universal (1936) starring Irene Dunne and Allan Jones, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1951) with Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, no three editions are alike, all having both different outlook and visual styles of its own.
Opening title: "The mighty Mississippi - deep and moody," begins with the Cotton Palace Show Boat "bringing to the river folk the glorious world of unreality - the theater." As the public cheers the boat's arrival, Magnolia Hawks (Jane LaVerne), a child of show boat owners, Captain Andy (Otis Harlan) and Parthinia Ann (Emily Fitzroy), dances for the public against the objections of her stern mother, who dislikes show people. During the night of the show, Magnolia, hoping to someday become an actress, is caught imitating its leading lady by her mother, who punishes Magnolia with a spanking inside her room. Magnolia calls out the window for actress and dear friend, Julie Dozier (Alma Rubens) for both moral support and comfort. Overhearing Magnolia wishing Julie were her mother, the hurt and jealous Parthinia immediately dismisses Julie from the show, not before Captain Andy enters to have her go out to perform. Years later, Magnolia (Laura LaPlante) grows up to become a successful Show Boat entertainer, but finds it difficult keeping her leading men who constantly get fired by Parthinia after they find themselves falling in love with her. Captain Andy subjects Gaylord Ravenal (Joseph Schildkraut), a gentleman and non-actor, to become Magnolia's new leading man. Fascinated by her beauty and charm, Gaylord eventually elopes with her. Though Captain Andy approves of Gaylord, Parthinia simply refuses to accept him into the family, constantly arguing with him, even after Magnolia gives birth to their daughter, Kim. Some time later, after Parthinia becomes a widow and becomes in charge of the Show Boat, Magnolia and Gaylord, unable to cope with her anymore, buy out their interest of the show boat and, taking along their five-year-old daughter (Jane LaVerne), start a new life in Chicago. Because of Gaylord's compulsive gambling and losing all the earnings and wife's respect, causes a friction in their marriage, leaving uncertainties ahead.
Others in the cast include: Elsie Bartlett (Elly); Jack McDonald (Windy); and Edwards (Schultzy). With Jane LaVerne, playing both mother and daughter roles, being such an adorable child, Stepin Fetchi's Joe, the character who sings the famous "Ol' Man RIver," is reduced here to a cameo dub-singing a slow but dull song titled "Look Down That Lonesome Road." While many of the actors credited being properly cast, especially Laura LaPlante, Universal's top actress of the day, and Schildkraut's less sympathetic gambling husband, it's Emily Fitzroy as Magnolia's frightful mother who gets better attention here over the likable Otis Harlan's Captain Andy.
For anyone having seen the remakes and expecting on hearing its classic songs, would be disappointed. Also missing are the romantic subplots of half-black Julie Dozier and her white husband, Frank Baker; and black comic support of Joe and Queenie. Other than some tunes from the musical used as underscoring for the silent treatment, the existing two hour edition to 1929s SHOW BOAT opens with an audio overture of stage performers of the musical show, including Aunt Jemima singing "Hey, Fella," Helen Morgan's "Bill" and Jules Bledsoe's rendition of "Ol' Man River." Take notice the voice-over announcer, Otis Harlan, introducing Bledsoe's "Ol' Man River" does not occur, cutting straight to the opening titles instead. Virtually silent with original underscoring, it takes the story nearly a half hour before reverting to ten minutes of spoken dialogue set during a bad acting stage play and after. The second talking segment occurs a half hour after reverting to silent scoring and inter-titles. Unfortunately the surviving print's second talkie segment, lasting a good half hour, contains no audio (now lost) using some inserted subtitles in its place. The supposed banjo segment of LaPlante singing on stage is voiceless with no indication to what songs she is actually singing.
Reportedly lost with no prints to have survived due to MGM's acquiring the rights to both Universal editions for its basis for its 1951 Technicolor musical, both 1929 and 1936 adaptations have fortunately survived, with the long unseen 1936 version the only one of the Universal two being available on video cassette and DVD. Regardless of being incomplete both in audio and brief segments, at least Turner Classic Movies cable channel has brought back this original edition back from obscurity, where it has been shown since July 1995, a real curiosity for fans of both stage and screen editions to see for comparison reasons more than anything else. (***)
Judge Hardy and Son (1939)
Judge Hardy's Family Matters
JUDGE HARDY AND SON (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939), directed by George B. Seitz, the eighth in the now popular family series starring Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker, Fay Holden and Sara Haden, its third 1939 series release and the last to label Judge Hardy's name in the title. Basically known to many as the "Andy Hardy" series, the opening credits not only resumes to subtitle this as "Judge Hardy's Family," but continues to have Lewis Stone's name listed first in the cast.
The story opens in Judge Hardy's (Lewis Stone) chambers in which a foreign born elderly couple, Gita (Maria Ouspenskaya) and her husband, Anton Volduzzi (Egon Breacher), a former night watchman, are in the process of losing their home and being in desperate need of financial help. The Volduzzi's have a wealthy daughter somewhere in Carvel, now a mother with a teenage daughter whom they haven't heard from in many years, to be the best possibly source of support. Hardy relies on his teenage son, Andrew (Mickey Rooney), who knows many young girls in the area, to possibly see if any one of them could me the missing Volduzzi, whose mother has married and now living under her married surname. In the midst of Andy's checking up with many young girls who may be a Volduzzi relation, Hardy's wife, Emily (Fay Holden), and her spinster sister, Milly Forrest (Sara Haden), prepare for a trip to Canada to be with their parents for their 50th wedding anniversary. However, Emily returns home prematurely very ill. Examined by the family physician, Doctor Jones (Henry Hull), she is diagnosed with pneumonia. The story shifts to heavy melodramatics as Hardy goes into worry, with Andy, in fear that his mother might be dying, driving through heavy downpousr to the other end of town get his sister, Marion (Cecilia Parker), back home for the family crisis.
Also in the supporting cast are June Preisser (Euphrasia V. Clark, the giggly blonde entering a contest on her essay on Alexander Hamilton); Martha O'Driscoll (Elvie Horton); Leona Maricle (Mrs. Horton);Margaret Early (Clarabelle V. Lee); Cliff Clark (Office Dan O'Shea), along with series regulars as Ann Rutherford (Polly Benedict), Erville Alderson (Hardy's Bailiff) and Georgie Breakston ("Beezy" Anderson. Marie Blake, who appeared as Augusta McBride in LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938), returns as the sharp-tongued housekeeper. Look for Rooney's real life father, Joe Yule, appearing as Munk, the tire man. What makes this entry interesting is seeing accomplished movie veterans as Henry Hull and Maria Ouspenskaya in fine support.
With 1939 being a busy year for Mickey Rooney, appearing in three "Andy Hardy" films, and two outside roles as THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, and the musical, BABES IN ARMS opposite Judy Garland, and its JUDGE HARDY AND SON co-stars as June Priesser and Henry Hull, Rooney was at the peak of his career. Containing plot elements ranging from light comedy to somber moments MGM style, JUDGE HARDY AND SON is standard and typical material. With Andy constantly bickering with his older sister, it's during the family crisis do they sentimentally show their love and how they truly feel about each other, this being one of the highlights. As MGM used this movie series as testing ground for its young starlets, few including Judy Garland and Lana Turner to have achieved super stardom, the young female co-stars for JUDGE HARDY AND SON featuring June Priesser, Martha O'Driscoll and Margaret Early would resume further careers at other movie studios. Forgotten by today's standards doesn't take away from fans of the series viewing this latest "Hardy Family" installment.
Part of the "Andy Hardy" package on DVD, JUDGE HARDY AND SON, along with others in the series, can be found broadcast of cable television's Turner Classic Movies. Next in the series, ANDY HARDY MEETS DEBUTANTE (1940 featuring the return engagement of Judy Garland as Betsy Booth from LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938). (***)
Andy Hardy's Double Life (1942)
Judge Hardy and Son
ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1942), directed by George B. Seitz, marks the 13th chapter to the popular "Judge Hardy's Family" series that originated with A FAMILY AFFAIR (1937). Recurring series regulars resume their notable roles, including Lewis Stone (Judge James K. Hardy), Mickey Rooney (Andy Hardy),. Cecilia Parker (Marian Hardy), Fay Holden (Emily Hardy), Sara Haden (Aunt Milly Forrest), Ann Rutherford (Polly Benedict), Addison Richards (George Benedict). This entry is notable more for its introduction of Esther Williams, who would soon win fame in swimming musicals starting with BATHING BEAUTY (1944).
The story begins one week before Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) is to leave his hometown of Carvel for Wainwright College. Andy has sold his broken-down jalopy to Botsy (Robert Pittard) and his pals at a $20 cost, the money Andy needs to get his car driven from New York so he could use it for college. While Andy doesn't get the money needed after sending over a check, and with only $18 in his banking account, his father, Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) has problems of his own, trying a case outside his jurisdiction involving a widowed mother, Mrs. Stedman (Mary Currier) and her little boy, "Tooky" (Bobby Blake), with arm in a cast, involving an accident against a trucker working for the Lincoln Lumber Company. With high hospital expenses, if Mrs. Stedman doesn't win her case, she may lose custody of her home, making it more difficult for the judge to settle this case fairly . The judge also must settle a reckless driving charge against Jeff Willis (William Lundigan), in spite that his daughter, Marian (Cecilia Parker) very much in love with him. As for Andy Hardy's double life, to teach him a lesson following an argument, his girlfriend, Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford) has her visiting friend, Sheila Brooks (Esther Williams), a champion swimmer and college girl studying psychology, to win his affections and get him into trouble. More trouble arises with Andy Hardy trying to come up with an excuse to not have his father accompany him to his former college of Wainwright without hurting his feelings. Others in the cast include: Mantan Moreland (Prentiss, the Butler); Charles Peck (Jack); Arthur Space (The Attorney); Edward Gargan (The Policeman), and Susan Peters (Sue, the girl on the train).
With Judge Hardy and son taking up much of the proceedings, Marian has her limitations but it's both Mrs. Hardy and Aunt Milly having less to do this time around. Parker's Marian does help out Andy by giving him some sisterly advice on what he could and and do to a girl without being taken too seriously involving marriage. Esther Williams makes an impressive movie debut 20 minutes into the story with her shadowy image on the wall conversing with Polly Benedict, but comes in full view a little later, especially with her lengthy and scoreless underwater swimming pool and bubbly kissing with Andy Hardy. Though her scenes involved were somewhat limited for her screen introduction, even with limited acting ability, she was attractive enough to arouse attention for movie audiences. Other lengthy scenes include Andy teaching his father modern slang language teenagers use, the early morning doorbell and telephone ringing involving Andy and his newly awakened father, a serious man-to-man talk involving how Andy truly feels about having his father tag along with him to Wainwright College without hurting his feelings, as well as the judge amusingly having car trouble while trying to make it on time to the train station. Both Rooney (age 22) and Parker (age 37) have matured physically by this time, and manage to get buy playing characters much younger than themselves, especially Andy at age 18.
Standard 92 minute family comedy-drama that marked Rooney's only movie opposite Williams, the final appearance of Ann Rutherford in the series, and Cecilia Parker's last as well before returning for the reunion series finale, ANDY HARDY COMES HOME (1958). Formerly available on video cassette in the 1990s, ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE, also on DVD, often turns up on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. Next in the series, ANDY HARDY'S BLONDE TROUBLE (1944), which continues where ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE left off (nearly two years later). (**1/2)
The Little Giant (1933)
The Gent from Chicago
THE LITTLE GIANT (First National Pictures, 1933), directed by Roy Del Ruth, with original screenplay by Robert Lord and Wilson Mizner, stars Edward G. Robinson in his first movie comedy. Best known in playing tough guys in gangster roles, Robinson does a parody of his screen image in straight comic touch. Though his later gangster comedies as A SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER (1938) and LARCENY, INC. (1942) were hilarious to say the least, THE LITTLE GIANT is Robinson in rare form without losing his dignity.
Following the opening credits to underscoring of "Chicago, Chicago, It's a Wonderful Town," the story fades in with calendar dating Election Day, November 8, 1932, where it is radio announced that Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt wins the presidency of the United States against Herbert Hoover in a landslide. It also marks a new beginning for America, and the end of the Prohibition era. At the Little Giant Social Club in Chicago is James Francis Ahearn, better known as Bugs (Edward G. Robinson), a tough beer baron, who decides pn going straight, paying off his mobster associates, including girlfriend, Edith Merriam (Shirley Grey) with a check for $25,000. and getting some culture in high society. Al Daniels (Russell Hopton), his best friend since boyhood and reform school days, remains with Bugs, with their next venture heading for Santa Barbara, California. Before their departure, Bugs pays a visit to his rival gang boss, Joe Pulido (Harry Tenbrook) to let him know he is leaving town and not being forced out of town. Registering at the Biltmore Hotel, Bugs and Al soon realize they don't fit in the social circle as the find themselves rudely ignored by the social elites. Bugs falls immediately in love with Polly Cass (Helen Vinson), a society girl, and through her decides to forget his next venture to San Francisco and make her acquaintance. Overhearing Ahearn is a millionaire in good standing by her deadbeat brother, Gordon (Donald Dillaway), Polly plays up to Bugs' affections while still carrying on a romance with John Stanley (Kenneth Thomson). To make further impression on the Polly's family, including business tycoon father, Donald Hadley Cass (Berton CHurchill) and his wife (Louise MacIntosch), Bugs rents a mansion from Ruth Wayburn (Mary Astor), a real estate agent, who, unknown to him, leases her home and servants in order to earn the money to pay off her deceased father's debts. After proposing to Polly and buying her father's Cass Bond Investment Company, Bugs learns from Ruth his financial error and the true facts about the Cass family, especially Polly, who has made a fool out him. Others in the cast consist of gangster character types as Dewey Robinson, Tammany Young, John Kelly and Ben Taggart, along with Helen Mann (Frankie), Leonard Carey (Inglesby, the butler) and Charles Coleman in smaller roles.
With several movies bearing the title of THE LITTLE GIANT, ranging from the Universal 1926 release featuring Glenn Hunter, and the 1946 comedy-drama simply titled LITTLE GIANT starring the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, this THE LITTLE GIANT is fun-filled 76 minute comedy, especially for Robinson fans. Memorable scenes include Robinson's venture in a polo match with the society swells, and his tender moment rehearsal love making with Mary Astor. Helen Vinson, in a role that might have gone to Claire Dodd, who specialized in playing cheating and conniving blondes, is convincing here as is Mary Astor as the former society girl trying to smarten up the ex-mobster from the clutches of the Cass family. Of all its cast members, naturally both Robinson and the frequent underscoring to "Chicago" get honorable mentions.
Distributed only on DVD, THE LITTLE GIANT did enjoy frequent commercial television broadcasts decades ago, ranging from Philadelphia's WPHL, Channel 17, and later WTAF, Channel 29, in the 1970s, to New York City's WNEW, Channel 5 (1978-1983) before becoming available in recent years on cable television's Turner Classic Movies (1994-present). Robinson may sure live up to his movie title as being little, but certainly has become one of cinema's giant as movie tough guys go. (***)
The Finger Points (1931)
The Power of the Press
THE FINGER POINTS (First National Pictures, 1931), directed by John Francis Dillon, based on the story by John Monk Saunders and W.R. Burnett, is a fine blend of newspaper story and gangster melodrama. Starring Richard Barthelmess, a popular silent screen actor of the 1920s, notable for his early performances in both director D.W. Griffith's BROKEN BLOSSOMS (1919) and WAY DOWN EAST (1920), starring Lillian Gish, and subsequent starring roles of his own for First National Pictures, stars in one of his finer talkies of the 1930s. Though many of the sound films failed to recapture his success from the silent screen, THE FINGER POINTS is notable today more for his supporting players of Fay Wray ("KING KONG" (1933), and future top leading man of Clark Gable ("GONE WITH THE WIND" (1939), in a secondary role as a gangster.
The story begins on a train bound for New York City where Breckenridge Lee (Richard Barthelmess), a young reporter from Georgia, comes to The Press, "The World's Best Newspaper," looking for a job and better career. Presenting a letter of recommendation by Charles Davis of the Savannah Constitution to its managing editor, the impressed Mr. Wheeler (Oscar Apfel) offers Lee a job regardless of having no openings at present. Working under Frank Carter (Robert Elliott), the city editor for $35 a week, Lee soon makes the acquaintance of Marcia Collins (Fay Wray), "Queen of the Sob Sisters," and ace reporter, Charley "Breezy" Russell (Regis Toomey), both of whom would become his closest friends. With gang war on the rise, it's The Press to put a stop to it by having its reporters assigned to investigate and expose the crime wave in the city by putting them out of business. Lee's first assignment is to investigate the tip given to him on the Sphinx Club of 628 Riverside Drive. With this being the notorious Larry Hayes (Robert Gleckler) district, Lee gets to meet both Hayes and his chief informer of the mob, Louis J. Blanco (Clark Gable) with enough evidence to have this private club exposed as a gambling casino, putting it out of business with a police raid and arrests. Because of this, Lee is followed and beaten in a dark alley by a couple of hired thugs, placing him in a hospital with broken ribs. Returning to work following his release, Lee finds he's unable to pay off his hospital bills, and asks Carter for either a raise or an advance in salary, but is refused. Realizing he has to look out for himself, Lee comes to Blanco for financial support on a promise of not exposing his crime ring to the press. Marcia becomes suspicious of Lee for mysteriously coming up with large size of money he places in his savings account in the bank, while his editor becomes disappointed for he not coming up with any exclusive stories of criminal activities. Lee continues getting paid by the mob and asking for more to the Number One Crime Boss of the new gambling casino, The Waverly, but gets the pointed finger towards him if he should ever double-cross him with any newspaper exposes. Things go well for Lee until his pal, Breezy, comes up with enough expose on The Waverly to have as front page news without Lee's knowledge. Others in the cast include: Robert Perry and Lew Harvey (The Henchmen); Noel Madison and Adele Watson.
Overlooking the fact of some jump cut editing early in the story, THE FINGER POINTS at 85 minutes is fine newspaper/crime entertainment. While Barthelmess is convincing as a good-natured reporter who wises up with enough confidence to stand up to the mobsters, since they go by the motto, "they never kill reporters," it's Clark Gable, in one of his 12 movie releases of 1931, who's the center of attention. Even had Gable not become a major actor who drifted to obscurity, his performance here is good enough for anyone seeing this actor decades after its release to wonder "whatever became of him?" Fortunately his career would last thirty more years. Sporting a derby and minus his later famous mustache, Gable's forceful voice makes him both believable and likable as a tough gangster, a sort of role he commonly played during his early years in motion pictures. Though Gable never became a Warner Brothers stock player as James Cagney, for example, better roles were ahead of him at his home studio of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1931-1954). Fay Wray, assuming a role that could have gone to Mae Clarke, Marian Marsh or Joan Blondell, is quite effective as the gal reporter. The actor playing the Number One crime boss is uncertain, considering the fact that his face is never exposed, seen only from the back of his head and his pointed index finger towards the camera. That would have been an interesting cameo played by some notable actor of its day. Fine suspense conclusion with a couple of incidents reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's style of direction.
Never distributed to home video but on DVD, THE FINGER POINTS began to surface regularly in the late 1980s on public television before shown regularly on cable TV from Turner Network Television (TNT) in 1988-89 to Turner Classic Movies since 1994. That's the power of the press. (**1/2)
The Doorway to Hell (1930)
No Way Out
THE DOORWAY TO HELL (Warner Brothers, 1930), directed by Archie Mayo, is a neglected and forgotten gangster melodrama most notable by film historians for its early screen appearance (and second movie) of future movie legend, James Cagney. Heading the cast is another relatively newcomer to the screen named Lew Ayres. Having made his movie debut in 1929, and first credited role opposite Greta Garbo in her final silent melodrama, THE KISS (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1929), Ayres would soon zoom to stardom as the German youth, Paul Baumer, in the Academy Award winning war drama, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (Universal, 1930). Before winning fame years later as Doctor Jimmy Kildare in the "Doctor Kildare" movie series (1938-1942) for MGM, Ayres, in his Warner Brothers debut, gets another chance in playing a role not relatively associated with his screen persona.
Louis Ricarno (Lew Ayres) is a handsome young gang leader and Chicago underworld boss assisted by Steve Mileaway (James Cagney). Following the gangland killing of Whitey Eckert (John Kelly), Ricarno is questioned by Pat O'Grady (Robert Elliott), a police captain and also his friend, about the incident. Unable to get enough evidence to convict him, Ricarno, a beer baron, soon makes himself czar of the city districts. Aside from Napoleon Bonaparte being his true idol, Ricarno has an orphaned kid brother, Jackie Lamarr (Leon Janney) stationed at the Fairfield Military Academy. He is also in love with Doris (Dorothy Mathews), whom he later marries and gives up his life of crime, making Mileaway the new crime boss of his association. Honeymooning in Miami, and typing up his autobiography in his spare time, Ricarno is unaware that Doris has lost interest in him and in favor of one of his gangster pals. In the meantime, a gang war erupts, forcing Mileaway to try and get Ricarno to return and take charge. Making it clear he's given up the rackets forever, fellow mobsters, Midget (Edwin Argus) and Gimpy plan on getting him back by going to the military school to kidnap Ricarno's brother. Their plan fails, causing the boy's accidental death. Hearing of this, Ricarno returns to avenge his brother's death. O'Grady places Ricarno behind prison bars to keep him from committing any more crimes, but manages to make his escape through the doorway to hell with unexpected results. Others in the cast are: Kenneth Thomson (Captain of the Military Academy); Noel Madison (Rocco); Eddie Kane (Morton); and Al Hill (Jimmy Kirk). Look quickly for Dwight Frye, best known as Renfield in DRACULA (Universal, 1931), as one of the hoods with a great answer to a question. It's interesting to notice character actor, Charles Judels, billed second in the opening cast, unseen in the final print, while the unknown Dorothy Mathews, who remains unknown today, never to become one of the studios' roaster of popular blondes as Joan Blondell or Glenda Farrell.
Not as famous as other gangster films produced by the studio, namely LITTLE CAESAR (1930) with Edward G. Robinson, and THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931) starring James Cagney, THE DOORWAY TO HELL fortunately didn't type-cast Lew Ayres in gangster roles. Still in his youthful twenties with his then teenage facial appearance, it's hard to imagine anyone familiar with Ayres movie career seeing him as a tough crime boss. Contrary to how others may feel about Ayres cast against type or horribly miscast, in true essence, he does a fine job here and holds interest throughout its 78 minutes. Having matured physically by the 1940s, Ayres returned to Warners for JOHNNY BELINDA (1948) earning an Academy Award nomination for his excellent portrayal as the doctor who assists the deaf girl, wonderfully played by Jane Wyman (Best Actress winner). With James Cagney in a good sizable role, it would be a matter of time before he would assume the role as crime boss and other leading man roles where he truly belonged. With production values good and fine direction, THE DOORWAY TO HELL contains no underscoring, making this one of those rare instances where silence builds up more suspense than mood music.
Aside from catching this one on the afternoon movie on Philadelphia's WPHL Channel 17 around 1973, THE DOORWAY TO HELL began to surface further years later on public television in the 1980s, cable televisions Turner Classic Movies and eventually on DVD to assure its availability and learning the old slang term meaning of the day, "A handful of clouds." (***)
Her Husband's Affairs
HOUSEWIFE (Warner Brothers, 1934), directed by Alfred E. Green, is a domestic story known basically as a Bette Davis movie. Though Davis appears in it, star billing actually goes to her frequent co-star, George Brent, in their third movie together, while the title character goes to third-billed Ann Dvorak as Brent's housewife. Taking second billing under Brent, Davis' role, as the other woman, might have benefited better and favorably for type-cast vamps as Helen Vinson or Claire Dodd, considering the fact that the Davis role is actually secondary and lesser to Dvorak's major co-starring performance.
Plot development begins with the introduction of characters starting off their new day at the breakfast table. William H. Reynolds (George Brent) is happily married to Nan (Ann Dvorak), with a son, Buddy (Ronnie Cosbey), who collects stray dogs, and a housekeeper named Jennie (Leila Bennett). Though Bill has worked as an office manager for Sam Blake (Robert Barratt) agency for five years without a raise in salary, his brother-in-law, George Wilson (Hobart Cavanaugh), who works with Bill, comes in late mainly to improve himself looking for a new and better job. After acquiring a job that pays $10 more than his present salary, Nan feels Bill can do the same, but he lacks confidence in himself in spite of some great ideas that can advance himself with the firm. Entering the establishment is Patricia Berkeley (Bette Davis), formerly Ruth Smith, a successful copyrighter who has known both Bill and Nan during their high school days. Seeing how he's not fully appreciated by Blake, Bill quits. Under his wife's advise and extra savings, he forms an agency of his own called the William H. Reynolds Company. Though he gets Mr. Krueger (Joseph Cawthorne) as his first client, it's not enough for him to survive until Bill becomes more aggressive enough to get one of Blake's most prospective clients, Paul Dupree (John Halliday), a cosmetics manufacturer, to advertise with him instead, taking Patricia along with him. Through the passage of time, Bill's business prospers, with he and his family now living in a luxurious new home with servants, and Buddy being sent to military school. All goes well until Nan notices Bill is spending more time away from home and business in favor of Patricia. Others in the cast include Ruth Donnelly (Dora Wilson, George's wife); Willard Robertson (Judge Edwin A. Matthews); Jonathan Hale (The Doctor) and Charles Coleman (Bolton, the Butler). One song, "Costumes by Dupree" by Mort Dixon and Allie Wrubel, gets vocalized by Phil Regan as Mike Hathaway during a radio broadcast.
A mediocre assignment for future major lead actress, Bette Davis, who might have thought of this assignment as both formula and forgettable. Yet her smoking trademark is evident here but little else except a rare opportunity finding Davis playing the other woman. For this 69 minute production, the film overall moves swiftly more in favor of its featured players of Brent and Dvorak. HOUSEWIFE does offer Davis her second and final collaboration opposite Ann Dvorak, following THREE ON A MATCH (1932), starring Joan Blondell, which Dvorak's role was a lot more meatier than Davis' secondary and smaller performance. John Halliday, playing a rich bachelor business tycoon who finds out what he's been missing after witnessing the Reynolds family life with child, is believably done. Ruth Donnelly as Dvorak's sister-in-law seems a little miscast here, but her role in general is not large enough to hurt the story in any way. Ronnie Cosbey, whom the Dvorak character claims him to be "all boy," is likable as the little son. In spite some similar features, he's not the same little actor from THREE ON A MATCH, actually played by Buster Phelps, minus the curly hair. For the teaming of George Brent and Bette Davis, better roles, particularly DARK VICTORY (1939) were ahead of them. HOUSEWIFE'S sole purpose today is getting a glimpse of its three major actors early in their careers, particularly career woman Davis, better off playing the other woman than just a housewife.
Never distributed on video cassette, HOUSEWIFE often turns up on Turner Classic Movies as either tributes to either Brent, Davis or Dvorak, or broadcast in general showing the now many forgotten films of the 1930s worthy of rediscovery. (** dishes)
Front Page Woman (1935)
FRONT PAGE WOMAN (Warner Brothers, 1935), directed by Michael Curtiz, is a newspaper movie, as indicated through its opening credits with assortment of front page newspaper views flowing across the screen. Starring Bette Davis and George Brent for the fourth time, FRONT PAGE WOMAN is actually their first in which they are the actual leading players competing of equal status vying for a good story. Though many claim the Davis role might have benefited better with type-cast sob sister types of either Glenda Farrell or Joan Blondell, Davis shows she can be just good a lady reporter than anyone else.
Ellen Garfield (Bette Davis), reporter for The Daily Star, is loved by rival ace reporter, Curt Devlin (George Brent), of The Daily Express. While Ellen is just another gal reporter to many, she wants to show she can be just as good a reporter than any man in the business, particularly Curt. One of her first big assignments is covering the execution of showgirl, Mabel Gaye at North Prison, for the murder of her lover. With Ellen feeling ill following the execution, Curt covers up for her, unwittingly producing both his and her story to both newspapers word for word. Spike Riley (Joseph Crehan), her editor, decides to give Ellen another chance to redeem herself by offering her another assignment, this time covering a four-alarm fire at the Granger Arms apartments. Unable to get through the police lines by Officer Hallohan (J. Farrell MacDonald), in spite that Curt and his photographer assistant, "Toots" O'Grady (Roscoe Karns) are able to get through to get their stories, Ellen soon notices Maitland Coulter (Gordon Westcott) escorting the injured Broadway producer, Marvin Q. Stone (Huntley Gordon) out of the burning building and into a cab hailed by Hallohan. Before taking off, Ellen overhears them talking about some mystery woman sneaking out the back way. Ellen's hunches lead her to the Plaza Hospital where she locates Stone, registered there under an assumed name of James Craig, who had died of a stab wound. With enough evidence regarding his murder, Ellen does some further investigating of her own by going after the mystery woman identified as Inez Cordoza (Winifred Shaw), and get herself a real good scoop before Curt or anybody else does. Others in the cast include: Walter Walker (Judge Ritchard); J. Carroll Naish (Robert Cordoza, Inez's brother); Dorothy Dare (Mae LaRue); June Martel (Olive Wilson), Addison Richards (District Attorney), Mary Treen, Selmar Jackson and Mary Foy in smaller roles. Interestingly, FRONT PAGE WOMAN did get a chance to have Glenda Farrell tackle the Davis role three years later as part of the "Torchy Blane" mystery series titled BLONDES AT WORK (1938) opposite Barton MacLane. Though Winifred Shaw is best known for her singing roles, FRONT PAGE WOMAN offers her a rare change of pace in a dramatic performance.
With Davis, still youthful and blonde, learning her acting craft from the bottom up, FRONT PAGE WOMAN offers her a good assignment assuming the role similar to her own personality - that of an ambitious woman needed to be taken seriously in what she does. Being a grand mix of drama with sappy dialogue, FRONT PAGE WOMAN is also fast-pace newspaper story with few lulls in between. For a Bette Davis movie, there is a long stretch where she's absent for ten plus minutes in favor of investigative reporting provided by George Brent and Roscoe Karns (the comedy relief). Though the "Toots" role could have been enacted by Warners resident "second banana" Frank McHugh, Roscoe Karns' interpretation as the photographer offers a different but welcoming feel for this production. One of the more memorable moments in humor that occurs both here and BLONDES AT WORK is during the trial where reporters overhear paper boys outside the courthouse yelling the headlines reading both "Guilty" and "Not Guilty" before the actual verdict is to be read aloud. It's interesting in movies such as this how quickly headlines with full stories go to press and on the news stands in bundles twenty minutes after story is called in to the quick rewrite rather as opposed to the following day.
Available on DVD, FRONT PAGE WOMAN, which used to broadcast regularly on commercial television's late show during the 1960s and 70s, can be found on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. The 83 minute production does overall offer a fine viewing of Davis and Brent a few years before their prime pairing of DARK VICTORY (1939), often hailed as their finest collaboration of eleven movies together. Read all about it! (***)
The Lost Squadron (1932)
THE LOST SQUADRON (RKO Radio, 1932), directed by George Archainbaud, is not exactly a full-fledged war story dealing with ace pilots captured by the enemy or one about a military search for a lost patrol. It's one about veteran war pilots who become stunt pilots in aviation movies. Richard Dix, a leading man for the studio, highly popular due to his Academy Award winning epic western CIMARRON (1931), heads the cast playing the captain who risks everything for those under his command, the very same men who happen to be his closest friends in both squadron and civilian life.
Taken from the story by pilot/author, Dick Grace (who also appears in the movie as one of the pilots), the story focuses on ace pilots stationed in France shooting enemies followed by crash landings in air battle during the World War. A treaty has been signed naming November 11, 1918, as Armistice Day. With the war over, Christopher Gibson (Richard Dix), a captain in charge of his command, gathers together with pals Lieutenant "Woody Curwood (Robert Armstrong), 'Red" (Joel McCrea) and airplane mechanic, Fritz (Hugh Herbert) for one last drink of liquor before heading out for civilian life. Back in the states, the men return to find life they had known is not the same: Red returns to Sharkley and Company to inquire about his old job, only to refuse his position when it means an employer friend of his with a baby on the way will have to be let go; Woody discovers he is now broke when his business partner embezzles his funds; and Gibson returns to Follette Marsh (Mary Astor), a stage actress and the girl he loves, only to find she has another suitor (William B. Davidson) and learning they now have nothing in common. The four men gather together with a clause to simply stick together. Through the passage of time, with newspaper headlines reading about war veterans victims of the Depression when seen on bread lines, Gibson, Red and Fritz, now hobos, bum a freight train ride to Los Angeles to locate Woody. They find him in Hollywood escorted by two ladies attending a premiere of "Sky Heroes," an independent aviation war movie directed by Arthur Von Furst (Erich Von Stroheim), starring his wife, Follette Marsh. With Woody doing well in the movie business, he unionizes his war buddies employment working with him as stunt pilots for the upcoming aviation movie under Von Furst's direction. Problems arise when the insanely jealous director discovers his actress wife's past romance with 'Gibby," leading to his "accidental" airplane crackups and dangerous aerial scenes intended for Gibson to put him out of the way. Others in the cast include Dorothy Jordan (Woody's sister, alias "The Pest"); Ralph Ince (Jettick of the Homicide Squad); Marjorie Peterson (The Stenographer); and Ralph Lewis.
THE LOST SQUADRON has the distinction of having three separate stories for one motion picture. It starts off like a war drama, becomes a movie within a movie, and finishing off as a murder mystery. Of the co-stars, the sixth billed Erich Von Stroheim, a former actor/director himself of the silent screen, notably for GREED (1923), gives a notable performance doing a parody of himself of a tyrant director with unlikable personality. Von Stroheim's sarcasms with critical outbursts toward his staff simply earn him that distinction of "The Man You Love to Hate." Mary Astor gives a fine performance as the woman with acting ambition. Sadly her character disappears long before the movie's finish. Robert Armstrong, a pilot with his love for flying and boozing, is routinely played. Joel McCrea, early in his career, is satisfactory as the handsome young pilot pal while Hugh Herbert, famous for his befuddled characters in comedies for Warner Brothers and Universal, offers a rare treat in a straight role with some doses of comic touches early in the story. Let's not overlook Richard Dix, the hero in both war and civilian life, who gathers enough attention and likability during its 79 minutes.
Distributed on video cassette in the 1980s, and later on DVD decades later, THE LOST SQUADRON had the rare distinction of being one of the true vintage RKO movies (prior to 1933) to continue its New York City broadcasts on WOR, Channel 9 (home of the RKO Radio film library) well into 1974, It was also broadcast around the same time with its dubbed Spanish prints for the Spanish TV station of WNJU, Channel 47 (Newark, New Jersey). Once shown regularly on cable television's American Movie Classics prior to 2001, THE LOST SQUADRON, along with similar theme drama about movie stunt pilots, LUCKY DEVILS (RKO, 1933) starring William Boyd, can both be shown occasionally on Turner Classic Movies. (***)
WINGS (Paramount, 1927), directed by William A. Wellman, became the studio's answer to World War themes following the success of THE BIG PARADE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1925) starring John Gilbert; and WHAT PRICE GLORY? (Fox, 1926) starring Victor McLaglen. Each in theme dealing with the battlefront during the World War, WINGS went one up better by becoming the first Academy Award winning motion picture of the year. Clara Bow, who heads the cast, was by then an accomplished leading actress, yet, her performance is limited in favor for her two male co-stars, Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Richard Arlen, both soon elevated to leading roles for the studio, along with Gary Cooper (as Cadet White), surprisingly with only one scene lasting two-three minutes, made enough of an impression to become not only a major lead actor for the studio but a two time Academy Award Best Actor winner as well.
Following an opening title, "To the young warriors of the sky whose wings are folded about them forever - this picture is reverently dedicated," the story gets underway in 1917 set in a small town introducing Jack Powell (Charles Rogers), a young mechanic whose sole interest in learning to fly. He is loved by Mary Preston (Clara Bow), the girl next door, but his sole interest is taking his little race car (called "Shooting Star" by Mary) he's been working to take a visiting city girl, Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston), out for a ride. Sylvia loves Jack's best friend, David Armstrong (Richard Arlen), son of the wealthiest family (Henry B. Walthall and Julia Swayne-Gordon) in town, but doesn't let Jack know it. War breaks out and the two men enlist. Before leaving, Sylvia's photo, initially intended for David, unwittingly goes into Jack's locket while David takes with him his little bear he carried around with him since he was a child, for luck. At the Aviator Examining Station, Jack and David go through excessive training under strict orders from tough superiors. They eventually learn the meaning of war battle as Jack, in an airplane labeled "Shooting Star," and David, fly out on their first dawn patrol. In the meantime, Mary does her civic duty as a Red Cross nurse ambulance driver in Paris. It is there Mary finds Jack, on furlough, at the Folies Bergere. Due to his drunken state, Jack fails to recognize her. After returning to active duty, friction arises between Jack and David over their love for Sylvia. Also in the cast are: El Brendel (Herman Schwimpf, a Dutchman who is true American); Gunboat Smith (The Sergeant); Roscoe Karns (Lieutenant Cameron); George Irving and Hedda Hopper (Mr. and Mrs. Powell). Quite memorable is Henry B. Walthall, leading actor of THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915), as a wheelchair bound father whose facial expressions/throughs of his son going to war says everything without any use of words.
While the story between close friends loving the same woman is routinely standard, the aerial combat war scenes and airplane crashes are first-rate, thanks to director Wellman, having served in the World War himself, to be able to bring forth battle scenes as realistically as possible. Granted, these scenes are as lengthy as the movie (139 minutes) itself, but are well captured on film. While Clara Bow appears in the beginning and the end of the story, her character reappears in the midway point in Paris as a Red Cross worker. So not to forget she's in the movie at all, considering her absence during its long stretches, Bow's character gathers enough attention in a scene changing into glittering dress so to get the drunken Jack's attention away from a Parisian girl (Arlette Marchal). Aside from the aforementioned battle sequences, WINGS also comes up with some interesting camera angles, tracking and super imposing shots.
Many years after its release, WINGS started to gain recognition again. First in an episode of the television series, "Petticoat Junction" (CBS, 1968) titled "Wings" where Richard Arlen and "Buddy" Rogers guest starred as themselves coming to the town of Hooterville to attend the theatrical movie revival of WINGS. One scene has grocer, Mr. Drucker (Frank Cady) saying, "There's Coop," indicating Gary Cooper. Then in 1988, WINGS was distributed on video cassette accompanied by organ score by Gaylord Carter. The organ scored prints were presented on cable television's American Movie Classics (1990-1998), Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: January 4, 2008), and in the DVD format. It wouldn't be until February 2013 when TCM broadcast a restored WINGS with with new orchestral score, which is fine, but I still prefer the organ scoring.
As much as many silent movies had been remade as talkies, some bearing different titles, interestingly WINGS was never redone, even with updated plot of World War II in the 1940s. Yet, the theme elements were recycled numerous times, which may be one of the reasons some may claim WINGS hasn't aged well. Overlooking such handicaps, the aerial scenes of the air and the bonding of two friends make WINGS worthy screen entertainment for silent film lovers. (***1/2 Wings)
The Rich Are Always with Us (1932)
High Society Blues
THE RICH ARE ALWAYS WITH US (First National Pictures, 1932), directed by Alfred E. Green, marks the Warner Brothers/First National Pictures debut of Ruth Chatterton, following her success in MADAME X (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1929) and several other dramatic roles under the Paramount banner. Though briefly a stock player for Warners (1932-1934), her association would be short lived first in favor of Kay Francis (also from Paramount), then finally Bette Davis, who also appears in this production. As much as THE RICH ARE ALWAYS WITH US is virtually a Ruth Chatterton film, many familiar with the title would associate it with Bette Davis, who actually plays a secondary role here opposite George Brent, her second of eleven films with him, and Brent's first of four opposite Chatterton, whom he would actually marry and leading to a short-lived marriage.
The story begins in 1900 where women are seen discussing the Van Dyke's birth of a daughter they call Caroline, "the richest baby in the world"; then to 1920 where gossips talk about Caroline Van Dyke's marriage to stock broker, Gregg Grannard, and finally 1930 where Caroline Van Dyke (Ruth Chatterton), "the richest woman in the world," is dining with Julian Tierney (George Brent), a novelist. As much as Julian loves Caroline, his feelings aren't the same with Caroline's best friend, Malbro Barkley (Bette Davis), who loves him. At the same time, Caroline's husband, Gregg (John Miljan) is seen dining in the same restaurant with his client, Allison Adair (Adrienne Dore). Later at a party, Caroline entertains Julian while Gregg spends much of his time with Allison. After Caroline catches Gregg kissing Allison, she then realizes her marriage is over, especially after having her woman to woman talk with Allison, who claims she can make Gregg happy. Going through divorce proceedings in Paris, Julian follows her there with intentions on marrying her, but takes the next airplane back to the states when he feels Caroline still cares for Gregg enough to help with his financial business matters. Though Caroline and Julian get together again, Allison, who hates Caroline, does what she can to scandalize her good name, showing Gregg the type of woman he married. Others in the cast include: John Wray (Clark Davis); Walter Walker (Dante); Sam McDaniel (Max);' Berton Churchill (Judge Bradsha); and Virginia Verrill (Singer of "Trying to Live Without You").
As much as Bette Davis excelled in playing unsympathetic characters in some of her later films as OF HUMAN BONDAGE (RKO, 1934), the meatier role here actually goes to Adrienne Dore, the young blonde who takes a woman's husband away from him and falls out of love for him after her marriage to him. Yet is is Davis who's career prospered for the studio while Dore drifted to obscurity. Yet, for a Ruth Chatterton movie, this production is agreeable high society material.
Short and sweet at 71 minutes, THE RICH ARE ALWAYS WITH US is of sole interest of young Bette Davis early in her career. Yet it is a good way to rediscover its now forgotten star, Ruth Chatterton, best known for her oft-revived DODSWORTH (1936) starring Walter Huston, in one of her lesser known gems. Available on DVD and cable television's Turner Classic Movies should indicate films such as this are always with us. (**1/2)