Monday, September 17, 2012

"Manuella" Loy

This week's film is a little-known Myrna Loy film from 1929 - The Great Divide, in which she plays Manuella, the maid of Steven Ghent (Ian Keith).  Yes, Ms. Loy is a Mexican (with appropriately darkened skin), and she is supposed to be VERY young (I believe 16), but she is quite enamored of Steve. He, however, sees her as a child, and laughs off her advances.  Then, he meets Ruth Jordan {Dorothy Mackaill) and falls head-over-heels.  Only problem is, she is not interested in him. Since she is a brat, and the daughter of a good friend (who is dead), he decides to teach her some manners, so he kidnaps her, and brings her to his hacienda.  Where, of course, she meets our little Manuella.  And here is Manuella BEFORE Ruth arrives, trying her best to seduce Steve:

Given that this film was made in 1929, there is a certain static-ness to the proceedings, and Keith is a bit stiff, but Loy and Mackaill (who we all like very much.  See our blog post about Love Affair) are lots of fun, especially when sniping at one another.  

This isn't a great movie, but getting to see Loy in her exotic period is a enjoyable. When you think that this is the future Nora Charles and Milly Stephenson, one is even more impressed by her fabulous range as an actress.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mommy Kay

In 1938's My Bill, Kay Francis plays Mary Colbrook, the widowed mother of four children.  3 of her little darlings are rude, selfish, graspy creeps.  But then there is Bill (played by Dickie Moore), who for some unexplained reason calls his mother "Sweetheart", and who is the only sensible member of this family. Though Kay was left some money on her husband's death, she has wasted every cent of it providing the selfish bunch with piano lessons and new dresses.  Now, she's broke. So the obnoxious 3 leave her (after she squanders more money on cabs and flowers); Bill remains, begins a paper route, and takes on the job of "Man of the Family" to support his mother.

I think it would be fair to call this an odd movie. It's based on a play (from 1928), but really the biggest problem is the character of Mary.  By the end, we get a lot more back-story (which does make her story more interesting), but she is such a scatterbrain that one wonders how she has survived as long as she has. Bill, however, is a stand-up young man, and Dickie Moore plays him with verve. Bonita Granville, Anita Louise and Bobby Jordan as the other three nightmarish offspring bring obnoxious to new heights. And Elizabeth Risdon as Aunt Caroline confirms they are from the correct gene pool.

This film came out the same year that Kay got labeled "Box Office Poison" (along with Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich); it's obvious it was less her and more some of the parts she was being given.  She does the best she can, but in a sense, this IS Dickie Moore's movie.  And he kinda runs with it.