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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

James Whale Pulling A Universal Plow


Diluted Precode That Is The Impatient Maiden (1932)

So this is what Universal handed James Whale just after his directing triumph of Frankenstein. Well, JW could make apple sauce from wormiest fruit, so there's interest here, but mostly based on curiosity as to what he'll do to liven shopworn boy-girling, which even on precode terms amounts to drag on 72 (too many) minutes. Whale was paid to work and that couldn't always be on projects he liked, Universal being in the business of programmers and but occasional specials of the sort this director preferred, and was deserving of. Maybe Metro was where he belonged, but what of producer interference there? Jimmy was a bit of a hothouse flower who made no secret of displeasure in commonplace jobs, and (mis)behaved accordingly. The Impatient Maiden was conceived as hot stuff for a Clara Bow comeback, but censors watered it down, first from a source book's title, The Impatient Virgin (imagine that with CB on marquees --- they'd have busted down doors to see it!). Bow balked and Mae Clarke replaced her, a pallid substitute with minimal "It," whatever her thesping skill. Lew Ayres is the boy interest --- seems all references to him from this period get round to "callow" --- but how in fairness do you follow on triumph that was All Quiet On The Western Front? Clarke is preyed upon by John Halliday, his argument that she occupy Deco digs in exchange for boudoir favors a sound and sensible one. I still wonder why she didn't take him up on it. Many in Depression audiences would have, and there's what got decency clubs in a lather. Andy Devine is comic relief (what, again? --- someone at Universal adored Andy). They all finish in clean skirts, just what we don't need with precode. Never let anyone kid you that all these '32 releases were hot potatoes. Some saw enforcement coming and were already in bow-down mode.

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