The Watch List For 2/19/13
THE CRADLE OF COURAGE (1920) --- Bill Hart always went for great character names: he's "Square" Kelly here, a thief and crook operative who comes back from Great War trenches ready to turn over an honest leaf. Gangdom in silents was strictly bush-league, scruffy barflys casual burgling upscale houses on nearby blocks. The Cradle Of Courage presages mischief engaged by starting-out Veto Corleone in The Godfather: Part Two, only Cradle's got Bill to don copper blues and put rout to miscreant pals he once led. Frisco locations enhance Courage as Hart takes bracing walks up/down steep hills not many years after the '06 Quake leveled them. Bill in civvies is not startling remove from his frontier dress, as 1920 life is sufficiently old west to ease transition. Action's at minimum, though by then it mattered less for Hart's glare being threat enough to bad men. He does all he did best here --- Bill in a moral dilemma was surest thing to please fans of this greatest man of the plains. The Cradle Of Courage was but mildest tweak at the formula, and works. What's better still is an excellent transfer Grapevine Video supplies in their DVD release.
Some of the Culver filming sites are still there, fans having made pilgrimage and matched brick-for-brick where Stan and Babe tried changing pants in avoidance of shocked onlookers. That's the trick of a first half ... the boys in their breaking out rush are in one another's trousers and there's no retreat to which they can right themselves. Observers happening by think there's something quite different (and unwholesome) afoot. Could Laurel and Hardy have gotten away with this five years later under Code watchfulness? Not likely. I wonder frankly how subsequent owner Library Films, Inc. managed a
Interesting too is Stan pants nearly fitting Babe --- well, at least they'll button in front. Hardy was less fat than robust in '29. A fitter word might be stout. Further
NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH (1940) --- You forget how fine a thing is for letting years pass since viewing. This is a British Hitchcock with all but Hitchcock to assure crackling good times and wit to rank high as when the Master made his lady vanish two years before. Well, why shouldn't staff remaining re-use what worked so beautifully for AH? Carol Reed directs after light-touch fashion of Hitchcock, his Nazis kidded as they'd not be again till Ernst Lubitsch did To Be Or Not To Be. You'd think Night Train was an outright sequel to The Lady Vanishes for drollsters Charters and Caldicott (Basil Radford & Naunton Wayne) back aboard and befuddled as ever by sinister goings-on. The danger is real, however, and suspense easily maintains over a ninety-minute ride. I sat wondering how many more are as good as this, concluding that yes, most Hitchcocks, but also others written by inspired team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who also penned The Lady Vanishes. These two would write and/or direct a brace of thrillers near or altogether the equal of Hitchcock at full steam (Green For Danger a classic I'll soon revisit). Night Train To Munich gets a full marks transfer from Criterion.