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Friday, April 11, 2014

Fox Film Corp On Perilous Voyage


A Precode Transatlantic (1931) Trip

I expected more from this precode Fox release, but maybe it's unfair saying so for a shaggy-boot DVD that was last resort after years wait to view. The situation promises much, a Grand Hotel aboard ship that predated Grand Hotel, but where's the iceberg I kept expecting? To sink was surely de rigueur for melodramas afloat over an entire length, though William K. Howard's flashy direction makes up for much; he was a dynamo for Fox who'd slow down when later transplanted elsewhere, having come from film selling in the Northeast for Paramount. Howard got initial jobs megging after brag to Para brass that he could make better movies than what he was peddling to hinterland Bijous. "Just give me a chance," he said, "and I'll show you how pictures should be made." And so he did, from the silent era to immediate postwar retirement. Film historian William K. Everson was enough of a Howard admirer to adopt the director's middle initial for his own. The best of WKH, at least talkie-wise, was probably done at Fox, output there including Sherlock Holmes, The Power and The Glory, and zippy-as-all-get out The Trail Of Vivienne Ware, one that deserves to be widely seen, but isn't.


Edmund Lowe is a shady, but do-gooding passenger who rescues distressed femmes Lois Moran and Myrna Loy from respective threats, a part I could see John Gilbert playing had Transatlantic been done at Metro. There is precode content, but keyed below pitch fans look for today. Does 20th Fox or archives have elements for Transatlantic? My disc credits were French and there was dialogue missing. A shame to think it can't be seen decently, considering a rich production, eye-appeal art direction, and what's said to be groundbreak lensing by James Wong Howe, all these gone wasted on latter-day presentation we can barely see/hear. Have precode festivals run Transatlantic? Guess not, as I haven't heard of a print source, Transatlantic not among oldies Fox packaged in 1971 for their "Golden Century" syndication group.

3 Comments:

Blogger radiotelefonia said...

This film was a big flop, at least in Argentina. It was in a package of titles that were originally released in Spanish dubbed versions only. For this reason it received extremely bad reviews.

10:02 AM  
Blogger opticalguy said...

Wait a minute … isn't this the film noted for extreme depth of field and including ceilings in the shots? All of this years before CITIZEN KANE? Or have I gotten this mixed-up in my head? Anyway it shows-up on the TCM page indicating that they may show it at some time. Alerts about this would be great!

8:53 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I've read of "The Power and The Glory" being recognized as a precursor to "Kane," but a reader has just e-mailed me to effect that "Transatlantic" has also been compared stylistically to CK, so it looked as though you've tabbed it right, Spencer.

9:50 AM  

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