Monday, October 3, 2011

Joan Visits Montana

This time, we visit with a VERY early Crawford talkie, Montana Moon.  Released in 1930, Montana Moon immediately calls up images of Singin' in the Rain with all the scenes of the beginning of talkies that we think of in that movie.  Joan plays Joan Prescott, a party girl who abandons her friends while in Montana.  Her sister has fallen in love with Jeff (Ricardo Cortez), but he keeps making advances on Joan, so she escapes, planning to return to New York.  However, she runs into local cowboy Larry, lives his free and easy outdoor life, falls in love, and marries him.  Then, she tries to convert him to her wild, party ways.  Of course, Larry is a fish out of water; and then there is Jeff, who is still in hot pursuit of Joan, regardless of her marital status and his relationship with her sister Elizabeth (Dorothy Sebastian).

The movie tries to be a little bit of everything. We have a love story, a cowboy yarn, dancing (Cortez and Crawford to a mean tango), singing (Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, better known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket), comedy (banter by Edwards and Benny Rubin), and drama. In a sense, the movie really doesn't KNOW what it wants to be.  But, we know that the film is also testing its talking "legs" here.  A little bit of everything, one suspects, will help the studio to understand just what the public expects from a talking film.

The fact that the actors are just out of silents is very obvious here. We still have some of the grand hand gestures and facial emphasis that we are used to in silent films.  An early scene between Crawford and Sebastian is a case in point, as they seem to flail around to make their point.  You can see this scene here:

Gestures that in silents were used to good purpose seem out of place here, when the words are telling us the story.  Crawford would quickly learn how to better use her body when she was speaking. In this film, you can see her practicing.  The film will also introduce you to future cowboy star, Johnny Mack Brown.  Brown would spend most of his long (40 year) career in westerns.  Another actor to watch is Ricardo Cortez; born Jacob Krantz.   He was introduced to the public as a "Latin Lover", but had a decent career well into talkies (finally retiring to his roots - Wall Street, where he had started as a runner).

This isn't a great movie, but we enjoyed it for it's historic value.  It's a glance into a period we've all experienced in other films.  It is nice to see the results of the change to sound.