Monday, June 25, 2012

Jean Goes on an Adventure

Tonight, we join the lovely Jean Arthur for the first in a series of films that feature her in the lead.  Adventure in Manhattan (1936) has Jean starring as Claire Peyton, and beyond that, there is little I can tell you, as there are spoilers aplenty if I do.  Joining Jean is Joel McCrea as George Melville, a reporter noted for his unerring ability to predict crimes before they happen.  When a famous gem is stolen, George predicts the next robbery, and surmises that the robberies are the work of Belaire, a thief long believed to be dead.  By everyone, of course, except George.

It is interesting that this film is included on the Jean Arthur Comedy Collection, as it is really hard to class it AS a comedy (unless you view comedy in the more Elizabethan-theatrical vein).  Our first encounter with Claire is far from comedic, and very few of the incidents that occur will make you laugh.  Perhaps the only funny lines are at the end (and even then, for those of us who had been carefully watching, they were much more serious than we believed the authors actually intended.) This is certainly a film that will keep you guessing til the very end, but I would be interested to know if anyone else really believed this to be a "comedy." 
A lot of talent is involved in this under-viewed movie.  First, of course, is Ms. Arthur, who really is the consumate actress.  Joel McCrea, usually the boy-next-door, is rather arrogant as George, and well he should be, because George DOES think a lot of himself.  We also have such excellent character actors as Thomas Mitchell (as George's editor, Phil Bane) and Reginald Owen as Blackton Gregory.  An interesting and gifted cast, in a very different, and at times puzzling movie.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rita's a Spy!!!

This week, we visit one movie that was part of a greater series.  The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939) was just one in a series of films about reformed thief Michael Lanyard.  The series started in the silent era, and continued into the late 1940's.  Among the actors to play Lanyard were Melvyn Douglas, Francis Lederer, and Warren William, who plays Lanyard in our film - his first in a series of 9 films. 

The plot is somewhat convoluted.  Lanyard is being set up by a spy ring, led by Rita Hayworth (as Karen), who want to force him to steal government plans.  The delight here is less the plot and more the byplay between William and Ida Lupino (as Lanyard's love interest Val Carson) and between William and Virginia Weidler (as Lanyard's daughter Patricia - the only Lone Wolf movie in which he HAS a daughter).  

The two women are a riot. Val stalks Michael, trying to get him to make more an emotional commitment to her. At the same time, he is dealing with his rather precocious child. A would-be detective herself, she is thrilled to receive a gift of handcuffs (which she uses to force their butler, Jameson (Leonard Carey) to actually "die" when she "shoots" him).

You may not remember the actual plot of this film, but you will laugh a lot.