Monday, June 20, 2011

Joan and Gary and Franchot and Robert

None of us had seen 1933's Today We Live, so when we discovered TCM was airing it, we were very eager to see it. A great cast (Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone, and Robert Young) and a marvelous director (Howard Hawks) led us to expect another forgotten gem.  But, it turns out, this one was probably forgot for a reason. The word "turgid" rather sums up the odd movie.  During WWI, Richard Bogard (Cooper) has just arrived in England to rent a country mansion on the day when his landlady, Diana Boyce-Smith (Crawford), finds out that her father has been killed in action.  Quickly, they discover they love one another - only problem Diana is engaged to childhood friend (and war officer) Claude Hope (Young), who is serving in the military with Diana's brother Ronnie (Franchot Tone).  Diana flees to the continent to work in the war effort; Richard follows her, joining the air corps.  Of course, they meet. Of course, Ronnie and Claude are there too.  Complications, as they say, ensue.
This film is very much inspired by director Hawks' experience in World War I. Indeed, his earlier film, The Dawn Patrol, also looked at fliers during the war; his later Only Angels Have Wings would be his penultimate tribute to the men who risked their lives in the air.  The problem with the film is that we have a bunch of obvious Americans playing Brits.  The writer seems to think that speaking in clipped sentences is the way to convince the audience that his actors are really English. It doesn't work.  

This is clearly a pre-code movie. Diana is no innocent. In fact, we realize that she is living with Claude while in Europe.  But other than that, it is not really all that racy, or even romantic.  The scene where Cooper and Crawford announce their love for one another rather leaves the viewer going "HUH? Where did THAT come from?"  Too bad, really. They should have made an interesting combination.  

We'll be taking another short break from Crawford for the next two weeks (while we wait for a few movie that will be aired in July).  Next week, we look at a comedy the great Jean Harlow. We hope you'll join us.

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