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Friday, August 02, 2013

An RKO Go At Precode Marital Trevails


Irene Dunne Tempts Clive Brook in If I Were Free (1933)

Tippling barrister Clive Brook seeks way out of loveless marriage when he meets divorcee Irene Dunne; complications for both make them question if it's worth the guff. Even old pic fans need adjustment to Brook's persona --- stuffy it was and deliberately so, but there's heartbeat under that rigid calm, and his performing wears well even as character-types he enacted left the scene long ago. For women who responded (there were plenty), Brook's was the art of holding back, reticence as route to romance. His was a promise of stability, and surely that was valued currency during a Great Depression. Precoding is at minimum, being result of both Brook and Dunne's natural reserve; they'll not seize advantage even of license given. All systems are go for a downer ending, which we're happily spared. Why depress the audience for the finish of such a negligible show? RKO made scores of teacup dramas because (1) they were economical, and (2) actresses ideally suited to them were under contract, Irene Dunne merely one of a rotating thespic wheel. If I Were Free was made when an English upper class could be addressed without sneering, disapproval reserved for Nils Asther as a wastrel of Continental origin. Plays well and effectively for being brief (66 minutes). If I Were Free shows up at TCM and is accessible from Warner's Archive.

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