The Watch List For 1/17/13
DESIRE (1936) --- Fairly drips with elegance, the kind we know
Paramount kept small crews busy getting useful backgrounds for exotic-set star vehicles like this one, even if the stars stepped not a foot off domestic shores. Dietrich's act was waning by 1936, at least one she'd been honing since
BACKLASH (1956) --- Same producer, writers, varied personnel that led credits to a bushel of UI 50's westerns, but still it plays. Directing John Sturges keeps action outdoors, here plentiful enough to relieve complication of revenge pursuit by Richard Widmark for his father's (apparent) killing. With Universal and other 50's westerns, you could never mind principals and focus gladly on faces in support. Disappointment comes only when Dick shoots one of them down too soon, as with heavy favorite Robert Wilke. Was there such a thing as westerns without Glenn Strange? Widmark told Films In Review interviewer Michael Buckley that he did Backlash for a percentage, and as of 1986, was still collecting on it. Maybe some of those back-end deals paid after all, or RW had good accountants bird-dogging the books. Got on Region 2 from the
A WILD HARE (1940) --- Agreed as being the first true Bugs Bunny cartoon. A book could be written about wrangles over who invented, then named, the rabbit. WB animators were still debating it in their old age, when such credit suddenly mattered, boomer interest having crystallized by the 70's and a couple decades of TV backlog exposure. Looks as though Tex Avery was the one who really took the character and hopped with him, though it's interesting that this credited director of A Wild Hare saw the cartoon years later (during 70's period of rediscovery) and wondered how anyone could laugh at it, then or before. Well, the pace does tend toward stately, especially by comparison with the wilder hare Bugs would become under Clampett and Tashlin batons, but greatness had to begin somewhere, and baby steps here serve fine for a starting point, whatever Avery's own later reservations. Warners' Blu-Ray rendering is stellar --- they've juiced color (did it look so brilliant in 35mm?) and put back original titles. Are there young Looney enthusiasts to succeed oldsters who grew up with these things?
THE FLYING FOOL (1929) --- Produced by Pathe during 1929 and crowing rooster period when, based on stuff like this, you had to wonder if talkies were really here to stay. Bill Boyd's the WWI dog-fighter who comes home with the peace to find kid brother Russell Gleason in thrall of man (now boy) handling Marie Prevost. Air combat footage looks borrowed from something older, though stunt flying later impresses. Director was Tay Garnett, who could enhance even barest of narrative like The Flying Fool's. There's welcome as always Jazz Age slanguage, and Fool doesn't run so long as to fatigue. Action-men had traded their horses for aircraft by 1929, the trend to reverse when sound was entrenched and outdoor shooting became again practicable, Bill Boyd's gain a biggest of all for getting back to basics and legend status as Hopalong Cassidy.