Monday, July 27, 2009

Precode Continues

Tonight's movie was Merrily We Go to Hell.  Frederic March seems to almost be in preparation for his future role in A Star is Born, playing a drunken reporter, who marries wealthy, loving, and innocent Sylvia Sidney.  Our initial reaction was - why on earth would a lovely woman like Joan (Sylvia Sidney) be attracted to this drunken fool. He forgets who she is five minutes after meeting her; then shows up hours late for their first date. At their engagement party, he shows up late, and so drunk he has passed out in a cab.

It's not clear if the film considers Jerry an alcoholic or not. He seems quite able to stop drinking any time he wants to (the usual claim of drunks); there is also a certain luridness in his drinking. Yes, he is amusing, but not in the Nick Charles (The Thin Man) way. He humor is vague and silly. He forgets what he says after he says it. We find out later that he is drinking to forget a past girlfriend; when he meets her again, he again begins drinking (having given it up for his now-wife Joan). Finally, his drunkenness and infidelity drive his wife to drink.

As a brief aside, we have here an early film of Cary Grant, playing a friend of Jerry's and date of Joan's.  I believe he also has a one second bit (we only see his back) as an actor in a play (it WAS his voice). Interesting to see Cary Grant not the romantic lead. It won't last for very long.  

Here's a scene with March and Sidney:




Without giving away the ending, there is no joy here; no real redemption. Will our couple stay together? Will the drinking resume? And what about that last line. Just who is Joan talking about when she mentions "my baby".  It does give one pause.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Introduction

Hello!  Once a week, some friends and I get together and watch classic films. We try to do "themes". So, after our "Movie Night", I'll get back to you on our discussion. 

Talullah Bankhead in The CheatRight now, we are revisiting PreCode films (we've previously done both of the Forbidden Hollywood sets), and are using the Universal Pre-Code Hollywood Collection for our viewing. We started with The Cheat, starring Tallulah Bankhead. Our reaction - WOW! It's rather over-the-top: Bankhead as a compulsive gambler who gets herself entangled with a sadist.  We were fascinated with Irving Pichel who plays our villain, Hardy Livingstone. (Mr. Pichel later went on to be a director. Among his films was Santa Fe with Randolph Scott). Mr. Pichel's Hardy starts out appearing rather effete, but turns out to be a sadistic maniac.  Mr. Pichel was wonderful, making the change from ladies' man to sadist seamlessly.  We were also fascinated by a photo that is in the dvd box that is NOT in the film. Very sensational - obviously shot to publicize the movie. And not in the movie (and couldn't be. I won't tell you why.)

I hope you get to see this movie. It's interesting, and not a bit boring. And, quite intense. You might be surprised!