Monday, November 19, 2012

Myrna, Jewel Thief

Whipsaw, from 1935, features Myrna Loy as Vivian Palmer.  Vivian has, for several years, been working with a jewel robber. She is tired of the life, however, and tells her accomplices that this is her last job.   She's had little to do with the crime, but the FBI, in the form of Ross McBride (Spencer Tracy), decide to follow her.  Make that, join her, on a cross-country trip.  McBride pretends to be a criminal on the lam.  Little does he know that Vivian had him stopped almost immediately, and is steering him away from her colleagues.  Of course, their enforced togetherness results in love, with Ross conflicted about his feelings for Vivian versus his duty to his job. 
Myrna Loy is just wonderful. Her world-weariness; her ambivalence towards her colleagues, her suspicions about Ross, and her growing feelings for him all shine out of her eyes.  Watch especially towards the end when her relationship begins to take a turn for the worse.  Her helplessness is palpable.  The film is also beautifully costumed with Loy getting some really lovely clothing.
Likewise, Tracy is his usual honest self.  He is Ross. It's interesting to watch his eyes as his love for Vivian increases.  You can see his changes in attitude just by looking into his eyes.  Also fun to watch is John Qualen as the expectant father of a woman has has just gone into labor as our team wander by needing shelter.  He is just a joy.

Want a sample? Here is a trailer from the film:
Next week, we'll revisit an old friend of ours - Kay Francis.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Myrna in Egypt

In 1933's The Barbarian, Myrna Loy is NOT playing the exotic.  Ramon Novarro is. He is The Barbarian of the title - Jamil El Shehab, an Arabian prince, who has been working in the city as an erstwhile tourguide and ladies' man. Diana Standing (Myrna) arrives in town with her fiance Gerald Hume (Reginald Denny) and her companion Powers (Louise Closser Hale).  Jamil takes an immediate interest in Diana - she is somewhat less engaged by him.  There is some verbal dueling, some tricks played by Jamil on Gerald, and finally, Jamil kidnaps Diana.  

Today, we would probably say that Diana had Stockholm Syndrome, because, quite frankly, as physically attractive as Jamil is, he is really quite an unattractive individual. He is a bully, he is a male chauvanist, and finally, he is physically abusive.  Why Diana would want him in the end is beyond me. Then again, Gerald is no prince among men either. He's just a wimp who can't even stand up to his mother!

 Loy is just lovely, as always and one is sympathetic to her Diana.  The problem is, one can't understand why she doesn't just leave town with Powers (the always irrepressible Louise Closser Hale) and find a better man.  Certainly the two she's managed to dig up in Egypt should just be left in a pyramid somewhere with a mummy! This is not really a film that translates well in the 21st Century.  We really wanted Diana to get a better break.

And of course, it is ever so racy.  By today's standards, this scene is nothing, but in 1933, this hint of nudity is just enough to upset the would-be censors:

The film is worth a quick peek, especially for the scene where Diana argues with her future mother-in-law about the proper placement of her bridal veil. 
And here she is in the bridal veil
And don't miss the final scene - oh, my, the times they really HAVE changed (thank heavens)!