The Watch List For 11/21/12
HOT PEPPER (1933) --- Irrepressible Flagg and Quirt, enacted a fourth (and final) time by Edmund Lowe and Victor McLaglen, don civvies for a go at rum-running and double-crosses. The two were like rowdiest guests at a stag dinner, their bawdy asides tempting fate of even lax '33 censorship. The Flagg/Quirt tandem was synonymous with loaded dice and fast shuffles. Femme support could anticipate an onscreen pat in the rear from Eddie, while blustering Vic was seldom remiss at licking ten times his weight in bar bullies. Perhaps less liberties were taken with Hot Pepper for censor awareness of the series' raunchy past.
What Price Glory? had led the Flagg/Quirt assault in 1926 and was wide-seen as the most profane of all silent features (confirmed by lip-readers). Sequel The Cock-Eyed World spoke in Sez You-Sez I vernacular, plus Lili Damita as 1929's marine objective. These characters and formula were foolproof and renewable. Hot Pepper of that title is Lupe Valez, stripping for Vic in what might be tagged Exhibit A for precode license. She dances too as a night club show-stopper that made me (and doubtless then-crowds) wish for an encore. Eddie gets off a crack, Aw nuts, with a shell on, that for all I know, entered catch-phraseology among Depressioners.
Dumbbell shtick comes courtesy El Brendel, someone at Fox's pet who got into much of their highest-profile stuff (a counterpart to Harry Green at
PURSUED (1947) --- Can lifelong tortured dreams reveal what so unsettles brooding Robert Mitchum? Pursued has been called the first of saddle-bred noir. I'd tab both it and just-previous Duel In The Sun for honors (Duel maybe more so), the two not coincidentally based on novels by Niven Busch. He saw Pursued as vehicle to further enhance stardom of wife Teresa Wright (first-billed), and didn't worry much over Mitchum, or whoever, for the male lead. Producing was Milton Sperling, a Harry Warner son-in-law the family wanted in-house, so they made him a deal to do semi-independent ongoing A's with top WB names. Sperling got/gets a bum rap as the "son-in-law also rises," but I've yet to see a United States Picture that disappoints (USP his indie company name). Writer and perhaps envious Ivan Goff said Milt was "a joke" and that nothing he did amounted to importance. Posterity gives the lie to that amidst reappraisal not only of Pursued, but Cloak and Dagger, South Of St. Louis, Three Secrets, The Enforcer ... I could go on.
Sperling was known by fair evaluation as a crack story man (he wrote as well) and seasoned judge of what worked. To a post-war market gaga for genre twists, Pursued was novel merchandise and not to be confused with wilting sagebrush patrons had tired of even before a slump gripped '47 boxoffices. Freudian psychology was fresh paint applied to an otherwise whodunit resolved like others in a final reel. Intelligently written and played, Pursued woke up a jaded public who'd seen everything on horsebacks and took $1.2 million in profits for WB. The pic's interest stays lively for guessing what oft-flashbacked dreams signify, its big reveal at the end a satisfying one. There's also fistfights and gunplay so psych stuff won't weigh too heavy. Directing Raoul Walsh was less thinker than action purveyor, so his taking charge saves Pursued going too contemplative. Olive's Blu-Ray lends further distinction, a great job and credit to James Wong Howe's rich photography.
CITY GIRL (1930) --- Farm boy Charles Farrell is city-bound to sell the wheat crop, meets and marries hash-slinger Mary Duncan, then courts disaster when he brings her home to face tyrant patriarch David Torrence. A story that can be, usually is, very unpleasant, but oft-told in the late twenties when urban v. rural themes resonated more. MGM had done similar The Wind with Lillian Gish, which I can't bear watching for her shrinking violet response to cruelty inflicted by country hosts. Mary Duncan's City Girl stands up to farm oppression and generates more rooting interest. Director F.W. Murnau of
RUNNING WILD (1927) --- A Bill Fields silent feature for
Running Wild is another where we wait impatiently for the worm to turn. When his does, Bill all but deconstructs whatever sets are standing, and deals out physical punishment, intensity of which he'd not repeat once sound arrived. Fields getting even in Running Wild is not unlike Harold Lloyd settling Kid Brother accounts the same year --- both violent beyond what we expect of such mild-mannered personas. Running Wild is more about character than laughs, but so long as it's Fields, we're fascinated. This is from his clip-on mustache era, that a barrier to fullest enjoyment, plus, of course, the lacking of sound and Fieldsian repartee. I watched this on a DVD made off a video cassette