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Monday, July 29, 2013

From A Tip-Top Of The Favorites Pyramid


Errol Flynn as Gentleman Jim (1942)

My nominee for Most Cheerful Movie Made (ever), the ultimate Feel-Good and Pick-Me-Up. A same year's The Strawberry Blonde has similar quality, and both were from director Raoul Walsh (my  parents dated to see Blonde in '42). Assuming he relived youth in these, Walsh's must have been happy early times. Maybe a word for Gentleman Jim is buoyant, coming at a time when seemingly all Warner star vehicles were similarly so. You'd not have thought this was a beginning-of-end for Errol Flynn, but it was during Jim that he was arrested on statutory charges and put upon slow path to career perdition. Gentleman Jim is a boxer story where no punch lands too hard, a good thing as reality has no place here. That might have been unbearable in light of what actually happened to characters comically represented, to wit Ma and Pa Corbett, gregariously in persons of Alan Hale and Dorothy Vaughan. In historical truth, Pa killed Ma, then himself, in a jealous rage. The Corbetts are at it again! Variety pointed out this and other lapse toward fantasy in a then-review reflecting a trade's better memory of who the champ really was and what he'd done. Now we're far enough removed from Corbett the real for none of that to matter, so by all means let Gentleman Jim have its pack of richly entertaining lies.

2 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

Gentleman Jim is a thoroughly entertaining picture, right up there with Robin Hood for sheer fun. That scene near the end with Ward Bond and Flynn paying respect to each other gets me every time. Bond's humble demeanor in particular is quite moving, something you don't find very often in contemporary releases.

5:11 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson reflects on Hollywood's turn of the century-set sub-genre as celebrated in "The Strawberry Blonde" and others of nostalgic brand:


Interesting to contrast the plain, almost unsentimental first version with the gingerbread confection that came later. Was "One Sunday Afternoon" offering period accuracy, or simply reflecting a tight budget?


"Strawberry Blonde", in contrast, is great fun, even just to look at. It's quite possible that Walt Disney and his designers -- many of whom came out of Hollywood studios -- were looking more to movies like this than to any real "Main Street."


At what point did "Strawberry Blonde" go from actual memories (even idealized ones) to fantasy, a world most audiences knew ONLY from popular entertainment? In the 30s there were certainly a lot of citizens who came of age in that era. Did they mutter about the piled-on cliches, or did they buy into the dream of a hokey, happy pre-WWI world? Aside from old books and still photos, that era was now seen almost exclusively through a modern rose-colored lens.


An unimpressed reviewer of Red Skelton's "Excuse My Dust" tossed it in a basket with other MGM films like "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "Summer Holiday", declaring them a genre, almost like westerns. One could make a case, stacking up giddy turn-of-the-century films beginning with W.C. Fields and Mae West in parody period dress and ending maybe with the theme-park lavish "Hello Dolly."



8:40 AM  

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