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Thursday, October 18, 2018

More Of Madcap Marion



Not So Dumb (1930) Is Davies-Vidor Again At Comedy


Marion Davies is a thoroughgoing ditz in this, her second talkie. It was also director King Vidor's second go at sound (after Hallelujah), so both had hills to climb. Not So Dumb's source play had action confined to parlor and patio of a country estate. Vidor talked years later of how he tried to open things up by letting players migrate among rooms, but best intentions of 1929 don't make a 2018 sit easier. Davies is locus of modern interest --- there are buffs still who like her a lot --- and we can admire how she overcame what was purportedly a bad stutter to do dialogue sans handicap. Her "Dulcy" is a scatterbrain, always saying wrong things and inviting embarrassment, a high wire to walk where such types inevitably try patience. Not So Dumb tests Davies' charm. The title suggests there is brighter light to her dim bulb, which I waited for. Dulcy nearly wrecks her fiancé's chance at business success, for which we worry more today for knowing how fragile livelihoods were at this dawn of the Crash.






The play, called by the character's name, rolled them in aisles from 1921 and introduced "Dulcyisms," shorthand for mangled meanings. One mis-turn of phrase is a stunner that would today get Not So Dumb, if not Davies herself, run out of the industry. Goose to fun is Franklin Pangborn as a "scenarist" who elopes with the support ingénue. Their kissing may be a first (and only?) for Pangborn on screen. Vidor let players gild the play's dialogue with wit of their own, recalling that these were naturally funny folk who could enhance text they were handed. He also pointed out W.R. Hearst as a heavy hand behind scenes, "sufficiently powerful to compel MGM and me" to make this and previous vehicles with Davies. That implies Metro and a public didn't want her, which was not the case. Davies' output returned profit, and she did not throw weight around, despite Hearst association that would have allowed her to get away with it. Everyone seems to have liked Davies, and her party invites were a most coveted in town. Many a career was made or renewed during weekends at Hearst Castle where she played hostess. Davies films are the more interesting where seen in this context. Not So Dumb is available on DVD from Warner Archive.

3 Comments:

Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Bob Thomas's book "Thalberg" says that King Vidor would pitch personal projects (like HALLELUJAH) to Thalberg, and Vidor would "expiate" himself by agreeing to direct a Marion Davies picture. So the Davies pictures must have been difficult shoots, with Hearst hovering over the crew.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

from the play "Dulcy" by George S Kaufman and Marc Connelly
between them, winners of 3 Pulitzer Prizes

12:03 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy-dznQfIM4

8:09 AM  

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