Manhattan Tower opens with the Empire State Building and closes with it. I’m not entirely sure they ever call it by name in the film but it’s not supposed to be “real,” I don’t think. Tower‘s Empire State is a world onto itself, so much so, it’s a shock people leave it to go home at the end of the picture.
The film takes place in a day, the morning accounting–roughly–for the first half.
Strayer–Tower‘s easily the best film I’ve seen of his–and screenwriter Norman Houston keep a rapid pace. When it’s introducing characters and situations (there’s a lot of drama on this particular day), Houston always introduces at least two characters and some problem they’re having. The film doesn’t leave anything unresolved and the amount they do resolve–in the last eight minutes or so–is incredible.
The film does have a villain, which makes things a little easier to solve, and Clay Clement is fantastic in the role. In a lot of ways, it’s the least flashy role in the film, because he’s just a sleazebag. The film’s constantly revealing his further lack of character.
Mary Brian’s kind of the lead, giving the best “star” performance in the film. James Hall’s good too, but he’s mostly around just for scenes with Brian.
Hale Hamilton is unexpectedly (his role, at the start, doesn’t seem big) great, turning in the film’s second best performance. All the acting’s good, but Nydia Westman too deserves some singling out.
Directed by Frank R. Strayer; screenplay by Norman Houston, based on a story by David Hempstead; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Harry Reynolds; produced by A.E. Lefcourt; released by Remington Pictures.
Starring Mary Brian (Mary Harper), Irene Rich (Ann Burns), James Hall (Jimmy Duncan), Hale Hamilton (David Witman), Noel Francis (Marge Lyon), Clay Clement (Kenneth Burns), Nydia Westman (Miss Wood), Jed Prouty (Mr. Hoyt), Billy Dooley (Crane-Eaton) and Wade Boteler (Mr. Ramsay).
Posted in 1932, ★★★, Black and White, Drama, English, Remington Pictures, USA
Tagged A.E. Lefcourt, Billy Dooley, Clay Clement, David Hempstead, Frank R. Strayer, Hale Hamilton, Harry Reynolds, Ira H. Morgan, Irene Rich, James Hall, Jed Prouty, Mary Brian, Noel Francis, Norman Houston, Nydia Westman, Wade Boteler
Clark Gable is an exceptional movie star. I’m not sure how good of an actor he is–his performance in The King and Four Queens is not, for instance, nuanced and textured, but he carries it from the first minute. Movie stars today–the ones who can act–rarely carry their “fluff” roles (I’m thinking of Nicolas Cage in particular). Gable does such a good job carrying the film, entertaining the audience, it’s very easy to overlook all the problems with King and Four Queens.
He’s not alone… both Eleanor Parker and Jo Van Fleet are great too. Van Fleet is given a fuller character to work with but Parker and Gable’s scenes are nice too. Parker holds up against him in these scenes, which are quite good. The film’s pacing is completely off–it’s a small story (and a short film, eighty-two minutes)–mostly because the other three actresses are light. None of them, except maybe Jean Willes, are bad, they just don’t hold up against Gable and Van Fleet. Even so, some of those scenes are very entertaining. On the scene-level, The King and Four Queens has a great script… it’s just in the whole package, there are significant pacing problems.
I know a little about the making of the film–there were significant cut scenes and it’s the only production from Gable’s company, Gabco. Even with the unsatisfying conclusion, it’s an enjoyable experience. I haven’t seen a post-war Gable film since the last time I saw this one (maybe six years ago) and it’s incredible how well he carries the film. The title–probably giving away his role as producer–refers to MGM’s title for Gable in the 1930s, “The King of Hollywood.”
The film comes on TCM every once in a while in a watchable, but visibly unrestored print. This print’s widescreen, however, and I can’t imagine seeing it pan and scan (though I once did). Raoul Walsh likes to move his camera and hold his shots. He’s another of the film’s pleasant surprises.
Directed by Raoul Walsh; screenplay by Margaret Fitts and Richard Alan Simmons, based on a story by Fitts; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; edited by Howard Bretherton; music by Alex North; production designer, Wiard Ihnen; produced by David Hempstead; released by United Artists.
Starring Clark Gable (Dan Kehoe), Eleanor Parker (Sabina McDade), Jean Willes (Ruby McDade), Barbara Nichols (Birdie McDade), Sara Shane (Oralie McDade), Roy Roberts (Sheriff Tom Larrabee), Arthur Shields (Padre), Jay C. Flippen (Bartender) and Jo Van Fleet (Ma McDade).
Posted in 1956, Adventure, ★★½, Color, Comedy, English, Mystery, United Artists, USA, Western
Tagged Alex North, Arthur Shields, Barbara Nichols, Clark Gable, David Hempstead, Eleanor Parker, Howard Bretherton, Jay C. Flippen, Jean Willes, Jo Van Fleet, Lucien Ballard, Margaret Fitts, Raoul Walsh, Richard Alan Simmons, Roy Roberts, Sara Shane, Wiard Ihnen