TRUE TO THE NAVY (1930)--- I've been searching
for a word to describe Clara Bow's Paramount
talkies, and have arrived at "confining." Seemed True To The Navy
would never get away from a drug store counter around which interminable chat
revolves. Bow still had looks and personality, both hamstrung by microphones
and a camera nailed down. Paramount
was ruthless at wringing what value was left in her name. But thenCB was no
worse used than other stars on their roster. Her leading man is Fredric March,
then a relative newcomer, but too urbane and Broadway-bred to be seeking
"soivice" at Bow's soda fountain. Stock comedy is tiresome province
of one Harry Green, his ethnic act a staple at early-30's Paramount. I wonder who among employers thought
him funny enough to continue using.
Get-it-done talkies didn't allow for luminous
close-ups such as lavished on Bow in Wingsand It days. Yack-yack pervades True
To The Navy, innervating reels of it, Clara and others stood stock still to
recite dialogue we'd happily do without. Bow jerks sodas, but has a maid at
home, to whom she performs the picture's one song. Paramount's indifference reflects all over. What
we know of behind-the-scenes make these vehicles (and Para
itself) hard to admire. Nothing about True To The Navy suggests care or
application of effort.Frank Tuttlewas a good director, but only with workable
material. No commitment on Bow's part could have overcome disadvantage here.
She would do a handful more, then leave Paramount.
Better instinct for self-preservation might have helped her change the tide,
but Clara Bow was about showing up for work, not evaluating or looking to
improve work she was given.
MOMENTS IN MUSIC (1950)--- This was part of a
series of shorts produced under the auspices of the Motion Picture Academy
during the late forties and into 1950. Each major studio contributed one or
more subjects (Moments In Music from MGM), their mission to boost an entire pic
industry and keep families attending as families.This, however, was waning day
of all movies appealing to everybody. Fragmenting of patronage was around a
50's corner, and all of Hollywood's
PR effort, including this series, was for naught toward slowing it. Emphasis of
Moments In Music is on films' potential to enrich viewers with classical and
operatic performance. There is acknowledgement of swing and
"boogie-woogie," but it is capacity for class being advanced, thus
Stokowski, Jose Iturbi, and Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy for highlights. Oddly
no Deanna Durbin, even though access would have been had to footage of her (all
of studio libraries available for clip usage in each subject). We're led to
think from Moments In Music that audiences young and old would be forever
linked in loving establishment Hollywood
and tunes it offered. The fact that wouldn't be the case lends sad subtext to
an otherwise beguiling reel.
THE STRANGER FROM PECOS (1943) --- Johnny Mack
Brown in the second of a Monogram series begun in 1943. He's a federal man
earlier played by Buck Jones for a Mono group with Tim McCoy and Raymond
Hatton, but Jones had died, so continuation fell to Johnny Mack, minus Tim, but
with Hatton continuing as comic support. Brown was capable enough with dialogue
to forgive dearth of action in these. He fights less, "investigates"
more. Too much talk on blahsets was staple of Monogram B's, but The Stranger
From Pecos has expertise of Brown and sidekick Hatton, their byplay a
sustenance for the 57 minutes this lasts. One Stranger scene has them
reminiscing about events from the last western they'd done. Roy Barcroft and
Charlie King are welcome heavies. These Monogram Browns haven't looked so good
since 40's newness. Warner Archive packages them on DVD and will hopefully
continue doing so.
CONSOLATION MARRIAGE (1931)--- Irene Dunne and
Pat O'Brien marry on rebound of jilting by former lovers. This is precode by
definition, but dullish in execution. RKO under exec producer William LeBaron
churned drama with sameness of imprint in slo-mo tempo that make latter day
sits an effort. The concept is interesting. You know the old girl/boyfriend
will be back to renew claims, but it plays with singular lack of urgency. Dunne
and O'Brien are equal to uplifting task, they'd save worse vehicles in a past
and future. There's John Halliday in customarily splendid support, and Myrna
Loy sprinkles precode spice where she can. RKO needed supervision of a David
Selznick and later Merian C. Cooper to elevate merchandise. Consolation
Marriage and so many from early Radio seasons were drugs on a picturegoing
market and barely improve with age.
ONE MORE TIME (1931)--- Warner Bros. was eager,
nay desperate, to develop a next Mickey Mouse. Their efforts went begging, like
everyone's, at least for initial 30's seasons when sole recourse seemed to be
plagiarizing Disney's mouse outright. One More Time's "Foxy" is a
Mickey photostat with a bushy tail and rodent ears that come to a point.
Difference beyond is less than negligible. Foxy acts and reacts like Mickey,
the latter such a powerhouse as to make competitors put all restraint aside in
efforts to clone him toward profitable end. WB had bought the Brunswick Music
Company, thus had a deep catalogue of song. These would frame cartoons and
hopefully sell piano sheets. All they lacked were onscreen words and a bouncing
Gags proved timeworn and not much funny even
then. Characters set on crude mostly shoot razz berries. That would end with
Code enforcement. Even bits and background figures are drawn like Mickey, with scarce
attempt to conceal the theft. Disney needed a lawyer army to stop burgling from
his easels. Foxy wouldn't last and didn't deserve to. There'd not be one more
time for him after One More Time. Warner cartoons improved when talent like
Avery and Clampett came to create Porky, Daffy, and the rest. These were what
finally put end to Mouse-napping. Seen on Looney Tunes Golden Collection:
MUSIC MADE SIMPLE (1938)---
This is one of MGM's Robert Benchley shorts. You either like his stuff or don't,
few half measures apply. Benchley would do situation subjects where he'd try to
sleep or train a dog to comic effect, the Algonquin's Ed Kennedy or Leon Errol.
Then there were ones that put him behind a podium for a reel's duration, Music
Made Simple among these. Humor being subjective can figure on some that'll howl
through any Benchley lecture, as neighbors on a same row sit in stony silence.
His humor was what they called "droll," which is to say it's not much
practiced anymore. Benchley suits me best when decorating a ChinaSeas
or Foreign Correspondent and not overstaying his wit. One reel of all-Benchley
will do --- two reels would have been stretching his point.