Category Archives: 1935

Hollywood Extra Girl (1935, Herbert Moulton)

At the surface, Hollywood Extra Girl is just a promotional tie-in to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Crusades. The short’s lead, Suzanne Emery, was an extra in The Crusades and the short suggests she might make it in Hollywood just because of that inclusion.

According to IMDb, she did not.

But the short also serves to let DeMille—who has the most dialogue in the short’s eleven minutes (mostly read from cue card)—foist his ego about. His acting’s hideous, which puts that whole idea of directors making good actors into severe doubt.

The film ends not on DeMille, however, but as an advertisement for young women to come out to Hollywood and try being a star. If they fail, they can always go back home. This ending suggestion is awkward after the film showed the misery of longtime extras.

Moulton’s got some nice camera moves, but it’s DeMille’s show.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Herbert Moulton; screenplay by Herman Hoffman, based on a story by John Flory; director of photography, Harry Fischbeck; produced by William H. Pine; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Cecil B. DeMille (Himself), Ann Sheridan (Genevieve), Suzanne Emery (Herself) and Clara Kimball Young (Grace).


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Remember Last Night? (1935, James Whale)

I wish I knew if Remember Last Night? is supposed to be a knock-off of The Thin Man or if it’s just a highly coincidental release, coming a year later, with a similarly intoxicated, ritzy couple solving crimes as they get more intoxicated (Robert Young and Constance Cummings play the couple in this film). Remember Last Night? is based on a novel, which suggests the latter.

The film’s about a bunch of facile rich party animals getting involved with murder–imagine “Sex and the City” with couples, set in the thirties, with murder investigation thrown in.

It’s a nearly unbearable film. While completely unsuited for comedy, Whale does have some amazing crane shots, just beautiful work, but then he’s got these terrible inserts and all of his close-ups look somewhat off. His direction of the actors is also problematic, but some of those failures might just be the script.

The script’s entirely contrived–when they need a detective, they call one (Edward Arnold), who isn’t supposed to be investigating, mind you, just helping them out. The same goes for a psychic (Gustav von Seyffertitz). It’s never explained why socialite alcoholic Young knows detective Arnold.

The acting’s not bad. Young has his moments and Cummings is excellent. Sally Eilers, Robert Armstrong and Reginald Denny are all strong, though the script gives out on them all eventually (well, except Armstrong, only because he’s barely in it).

The film misuses Edward Brophy, which I hadn’t believed possible before seeing this one.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by James Whale; screenplay by Harry Clork, Doris Malloy and Dan Totheroh, based on a novel by Adam Hobhouse; director of photography, Joseph A. Valentine; edited by Ted J. Kent; music by Franz Waxman; produced by Whale and Carl Laemmle Jr.; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Edward Arnold (Danny Harrison), Robert Young (Tony Milburn), Constance Cummings (Carlotta Milburn), George Meeker (Vic Huling), Sally Eilers (Bette Huling), Reginald Denny (Jake Whitridge), Louise Henry (Penny Whitridge), Robert Armstrong (Flannagan), Gregory Ratoff (Faronea), Monroe Owsley (Billy Arliss), Jack La Rue (Baptiste Bouclier), Edward Brophy (Maxie), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Professor Karl Jones) and Arthur Treacher (Clarence Phelps).


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Wings in the Dark (1935, James Flood)

Wings in the Dark is three-quarters overwrought melodrama with the remainder squandered potential. The film opens with Myrna Loy as the protagonist, an aviatrix (never thought I’d get to type that word) whose flying abilities can’t compensate–in terms of professional opportunities–for her lack of male gender. This part of the film, with Loy trying to make a living when she can’t do much more than stunt flying, is interesting. It reminded me, Amelia Earhart or no Amelia Earhart, I don’t think I’ve ever flown on a flight with a female pilot (or even a female member of the flight crew).

But the film quickly turns Loy into a standard melodramatic female role with the appearance of Cary Grant. Grant’s a successful pilot–who doesn’t even have to time to acknowledge fliers like Loy–and Loy seems to love him for it. It’s excusable at this point, part of the narrative; it isn’t until later the melodramatic syrup clogs the whole film down.

Grant ends up blind–but not really blind, there’s the chance he’ll get his sight back–and the film becomes an advertisement for anti-blindness. It’s too bad there isn’t a word for it, as it’s difficult to describe the film’s hostility towards the blind. Where they could make distinctions between Grant’s character’s situation and those of blind people, they make generalizations. It’s stunning–being blind, according to Wings in the Dark, is worse than being a leper. It really is a burden on friends and family and the world at large. Plus, Grant might awkwardly bump into things, you know, to show off how he can’t see after just having an argument about people deceiving him because he can’t see. All it needs is a laugh track.

Grant and Loy do have a lot of chemistry, which keeps it going through some of the worse scripted scenes. There’s a walk through the woods, for instance, and it’s beautifully done. James Flood’s a fine director, but he can’t do much with the content.

Just before the worst of the poor blind Grant scenes, there’s some more fine Loy as the female flier material. The film’s trying to put way too much into seventy-five minutes and without the screenwriters to pull it off. Both leads have individual story lines deserving of attention and the film’s attempt to tie them together fails.

It doesn’t help the supporting cast is phoning in their performances. Hobert Cavanaugh’s direction was apparently to have a loud Scottish accent and he does, even if it’s shaky at times. Roscoe Karns, who should be lovable as Loy’s thoughtlessly ambitious manager, is not. Any time he comes on the screen, it’s unbelievable Loy would associate with such a snake. Dean Jagger’s good, but he’s only in it at the beginning and end.

There’s some nice aerial photography and there’s a fine effects sequence at the end, but the movie stops early. That effects sequence earns it some more consideration and instead of playing it all out, it ends at the first possible moment following. Going a little longer and concluding some of the story lines wouldn’t have helped a lot, but it would have helped some. Especially since Loy spends the last quarter of the film alone in a cockpit, not the most interesting place for an actor to be….

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by James Flood; screenplay by Jack Kirkland and Frank Partos, based on an adaptation by Dale Van Every and E.H. Robinson and a story by Philip D. Hurn and Neil Shipman; director of photography, William C. Mellor; edited by William Shea; music by Heinz Roemheld; produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr.; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Myrna Loy (Sheila Mason), Cary Grant (Ken Gordon), Roscoe Karns (Nick Williams), Hobart Cavanaugh (Mac), Dean Jagger (Top Harmon), Russell Hopton (Jake Brashear), Matt McHugh (Mechanic) and Graham McNamee (Radio Announcer).


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Toni (1935, Jean Renoir)

In its opening, Toni is established as an immigrant’s story. Foreign workers (Spanish and Italian) go to the south of France to work the quarries. The opening “prologue”–it’s never announced as a prologue, but there’s an “end of prologue” card–shows the workers’ arrival. The end also shows workers arriving, three years later, after the title character, Toni, has had some adventures. Problematically, he only gets a name after the prologue’s over so it’s hard to recognize him once the first part of the film starts. Toni’s present action is three years, split into one section a year after Toni arrives and has found a place (well, a girlfriend–his landlady) and another, two years later. Because of the split, the film mostly concentrates on melodrama–there’s a love triangle (or quartet, it’s reveal is one of the film’s only decent final act moments)–but never on anything interesting. We never see Toni become friends with the other workers, even though these friendships are incredibly important to the first part of the film. There’s one character–who’s in the entire film–who doesn’t even get a name until the last scene. We also never see Toni and his landlady’s romance, which might have been nice, since–by the time we arrive–he’s a jerk and she’s a nag. There are some moments of the second romance, the one leading into the love triangle, but when the film skips two years… well, it’s just hard for them to have any resonance.

Watching the film, I thought it was one of Renoir’s earliest works, but it’s not, it’s ten years into his career. Some of the shots are the regular, wonderful Renoir shots and I was all set with a sentence about how no one composed for black and white like Renoir did. But there’s a raw element to Toni. The focus is soft when it shouldn’t be and, since it’s filmed on location and some of the actors aren’t actors (there’s a great cutaway from some worker looking straight at the camera, followed by a couple kids who can’t keep a straight face), Toni feels amateurish. None of the lead actors–except Max Dalban as the dimensionless villain–are good, which doesn’t help the film either.

The film has an interesting pace. The opening moves, the middle drags, and the end is somewhere in between. Unfortunately, the perception of the end might be affected by how bad the film is getting. When Renoir ties it into the pretty, “immigrant worker story” bow, Toni flattens, losing anything (not much) it might have been doing. Still, since the quality ranges throughout–getting worse and worse, unfortunately–and starts reasonably high, the film’s not an unpleasant experience. By the end, for example, I’d forgotten I had been expecting a lot more from Renoir.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jean Renoir; screenplay by Renoir, based on a story by Jacques Levert; director of photography, Claude Renoir; edited by Suzanne de Troeye and Marguerite Renoir; music by Paul Bozzi; released by Films Marcel Pagnol.

Starring Celia Montalván (Josefa), Jenny Helia (Marie), Édouard Delmont (Fernand), Max Dalban (Albert), Andrex (Gabi), Michel Kovachevitch (Sebastian) and Charles Blavette (Toni).


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