Monday, May 23, 2011

Joan Gets "Chained"

Chained (1934) is a delightful movie, and we heartily recommend it.  Joan Crawford plays Diane Levering, a secretary who has fallen in love with her married boss Richard Field (warmly played by Otto Kruger).  He loves her dearly, and asks his wife for a divorce.  Though they have lived apart for years, she likes the position and money his name provides and refuses to let him go.  Diane is not willing to be a mistress, so she leaves the country on a cruise, where she meets Argentina rancher Mike Bradley (Clark Gable). Of course, they fall in love.  It should be simple, but it is not. For when Diane goes back to Richard to end their relationship, she finds he is joyfully awaiting her, divorce in hand, having given up almost everything to be with the woman he loves.

And so it goes.  One of the things that makes this movie so delightful is the performances by the lead actors.  Crawford's Diane is a genuinely good woman.  She loves Richard, but has resisted breaking up his marriage (even though it is clearly a marriage in name only).  So too is Richard the ultimate gentleman.  Even as we root for Mike and Diane to get together, we have warm feelings for Richard.  One wants to find him a nice woman, who will love him as much as he deserves. Add to this strong performances by Gable (watch him in the scene where he finally meets Field. It is wonderful). Stuart Erwin joins this ensemble as Mike's best friend, Johnny Smith; you begin thinking he is a fool you will despise, but realize he is a true friend and a good person.  One other little plus - as Diane and Mike cavort in a swimming pool on the ship, they are joined by a young boy - played by Mickey Rooney.  Don't look away, you might miss him!

This isn't shown very often; too bad. It is well worth your time. Gable and Crawford do have a screen magic that is hard to beat.  And the story is just lovely.  Here's a scene from the beginning of the film, where we get to know Diana and Richard:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Joan Needs an Umbrella

1932's Rain most assuredly falls into the Pre-code era.  Ms. Crawford starts as the notorious Sadie Thompson, a woman with a shady past, who is traveling through the Pacific.  Trapped on Pago Pago with a reformer (Walter Huston as the creepy Alfred Davidson), his snooty wife (Beulah Bondi), and Sgt "Handsome" O'Hara (William Gargan), Sadie immediately befriends O'Hara.  But when O'Hara is placed in the brig, she finds herself under attack from the other hotel residents.  Davidson convinces the governor to deport Sadie on the next departing ship, which happens to be going to San Francisco. A terrified Sadie begs for a reprieve, but to no avail; instead she finds herself the latest victim of Davidson's reform efforts.

Nowadays, we would recognize Sadie as a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.   Rain does a good job of showing Sadie's transformation from good-time girl to missionary.  Frankly, we thought Crawford was GORGEOUS once the heavy Sadie makeup was stripped off to reveal her true face.  The reformed Sadie IS almost saintly in appearance, with her long-sleeve, flowing robe, while Davidson resembles something along the line of an old-testament prophet. Without giving too much away, the ending is jarring, and one that would not be permitted once the code was strictly enforced.  Here is the scene where Davidson goes to work to demoralize Sadie:
Beulah Bondi is just wonderful as the prissy Mrs. Davidson, a part she originated on Broadway; It is also nice to see Guy Kibbee as Joe Horn, the resident hotel owner. He is sympathetic to Sadie, but powerless, if he is to be allowed future residence in Pago Pago.

There is an excellent article on the TCM website that will give you some further insight into this interesting film.  We hope you will join us next week for another early Crawford.