Monday, June 6, 2016

Dorothy is Devious

We follow one of our favorite actors with a favorite actress, the lovely Dorothy Mackaill in Bulldog Drummond at Bay (1937).  Ms. Mackaill plays Doris Thompson, a rather shady young lady who seems to be menacing the hero of the piece, Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, this time played by John Lodge.  When a vacationing Drummond sees two men loading a dead body into a car trunk, he becomes enmeshed in a plot which includes stolen jewels, a mysterious lady, and intrigue.

In a sense, the plot of this Bulldog Drummond adventure seems very reminiscent of the one we watched last week.   However, our reactions to the films were very different.  Where the 1929 film crackled, this one rather drones along.  Part of the problem - in fact, the biggest part - is that John Lodge is no Ronald Colman.  He's quite handsome, and he is an okay actor, but he just doesn't have any spark.  Quite frankly, Dorothy Mackaill steals the film right from under him.  It really should have been entitled Doris Thompson NOT at Bay. (This, by the way, was Ms. Mackaill's final film).  Though the title of this film was reused in 1947 (with Ron Randall in the title role),  the plots seem to be quite different.
John Lodge did not have a long film career.  Discovered by a talent scout while in California visiting his wife (who was dubbing a Greta Garbo film into Italian), between 1933 and 1940, he appeared in 21 films, the most notable being Little Women (1933), as Laurie's tutor, John; The Little Colonel (1935) in which he played Shirley Temple's Confederate officer father; and The Scarlet Empress (1934), as Marlene Dietrich's lover.  He journeyed to France for his last film, Max Ophuls' Sarajevo, then went to New York to appear on Broadway in Night of Love and Watch on the Rhine.  But, by 1943, he was in the Navy, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was decorated with the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor and with the Croix de Guerre with Palm.  When he returned to civilian life, he and his wife settled in Westport, Connecticut, where Mr. Lodge took up the family business - the grandson of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, he ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress and won.  He later would serve as governor of Connecticut, and eventually would become ambassador to Spain, Argentina, and Switzerland.  (His wife, Francesca,was a founding member of the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut.)  He died in 1985, at the age of 82, survived by his two daughters and his wife of 53 year.  The Connecticut Turnpike was named in his honor after his death.
Victor Jory (Gregoroff) is. not surprisingly, the villain of the piece.  Jory spent most of his career playing the baddie - Jonas Wilkerson in Gone with the Wind (1939),  Injun Joe in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Yancey in Dodge City, (1939) are just a few of his films, but it was a substantial career.  Mr. Jory began working at the beginning of sound - his first film was in 1930 - and continued working in film, television, radio until 1980, two years before his death.  With a remarkable, unique speaking voice, he was a natural to take up animated films, and in fact his recording of Tubby the Tuba (he served as the narrator to the song, which was designed to introduce children to the parts of an orchestra) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Subject in 1947, and was inducted into the National Recording Registry in 2005.  In the 1940s, he moved to New York, where he appeared in 8 Broadway plays. In his later years, he segued easily into television, becoming a staple (usually as the villain) on many television series (including I Spy, Bonanza, and Burke's Law, to touch the tip of the iceberg).  His own series, Manhunt, was on for two years.  Married for 50 years to his wife, Jean,  he was 80 when he died of a heart attack.  This obituary in the Los Angeles Times will give you a fuller picture of his impressive career. 

We'll leave you with this scene of the arrival of Dorothy Mackaill to the Drummond hide-away.  Next week, we'll return with another of her films.

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