Category Archives: 1941

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, John English and William Witney), Chapter 12: Captain Marvel’s Secret

Captain Marvel’s Secret opens with yet another lackluster cliffhanger resolve. No reason to change it up at the end, apparently.

The chapter has a lot to do in sixteen minutes. It’s got to reveal the evil Scorpion’s identity, stop the Scorpion’s evil plan, and maybe do something regarding Frank Coghlan Jr. and Tom Tyler’s Captain Marvel.

Secret drags out the Scorpion identity reveal–with William Nobles’s photography showing off how much he can keep two actors’ faces in shadow when there shouldn’t be one–while putting William ‘Billy’ Benedict and Louise Currie on the run. Their attempt to escape from the Scorpion’s thugs has an awesome special effect–thugs on horseback, good guys in car. It almost seems like Captain Marvel is going to up the ante as it winds down.

But no.

Not even when it gets around to the final transformation from Coghlan to Tyler, even though events are perfect for something entertaining.

Tyler gets a lot of lines before the chapter’s over, his most of the serial. In context, he’s fine. But it’s probably good he didn’t get a lot of pontificating throughout.

All those lines are at Coghlan’s expense. When he’s not Shazamed up, Coghlan’s either preparing to say the magic word or he’s literally gagged.

The finish, after Secret takes care of outstanding business, is abrupt and inadequate.

Set design is real nice though.

CREDITS

Directed by John English and William Witney; screenplay by Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Arch Heath, Joseph F. Poland, and Sol Shor, based on the comic book by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; director of photography, William Nobles; edited by William P. Thompson and Edward Todd; music by Cy Feuer; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Frank Coghlan Jr. (Billy Batson), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Whitey Murphy), Louise Currie (Betty Wallace), Kenne Duncan (Barnett), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), and Reed Hadley (Rahman Bar).


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Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, John English and William Witney), Chapter 11: Valley of Death

Valley of Death is the penultimate chapter of Adventures of Captain Marvel. It’s in a rush to finish. The cliffhanger resolution is boring, though leads to some decent effects shots. The cast ends up in a hotel somewhere, planning to return to Thailand and the tombs from the first chapter.

Villain Reed Hadley, who made an impression so long ago, returns for Valley of Death. The Scorpion, his identity still a mystery, shows up to send a falcon with a message to Hadley and the rest of the bad guys. They’re bad guys because they don’t want the Americans digging up the tombs. The Scorpion, on the other hand, wants to be turn materials into gold and be rich beyond compare.

Tom Tyler gets a bunch of heroics to do while the Americans are en route to the tombs. Like picking up a fallen tree trunk. Only Louise Currie seems surprised to see him in Thailand. Everyone else just shrugs it off.

Once they’re back to the tombs–and Valley is splitting its time between the expedition and the bad guys–Frank Coghlan Jr. gets to take over a bit. Most of the time is spent either on the bad guys or the bad guys’ plan. They cause a volcano to erupt. Some great effects and nice editing on the sequence.

Unfortunately, there’s no drama to it. Not even when a tomb is threatening to collapse on the supporting cast.

There’s some excellent music this chapter (from Cy Feuer) but it’s not priming Adventures for a strong finish.

CREDITS

Directed by John English and William Witney; screenplay by Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Arch Heath, Joseph F. Poland, and Sol Shor, based on the comic book by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; director of photography, William Nobles; edited by William P. Thompson and Edward Todd; music by Cy Feuer; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Frank Coghlan Jr. (Billy Batson), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Whitey Murphy), Louise Currie (Betty Wallace), Kenne Duncan (Barnett), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), and Reed Hadley (Rahman Bar).


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Two-Faced Woman (1941, George Cukor)

Two-Faced Woman is the story of a successful New York magazine editor, played by Melvyn Douglas, who marries his ski instructor (Greta Garbo) while on vacation. It’s a whirlwind courtship, with one condition of the marriage (for Garbo) being Douglas is giving up New York. Turns out he’s not and off he goes to New York.

Once in New York, Douglas keeps putting off returning to Garbo. Fed up, Garbo comes to the city and finds Douglas out on the town with mistress Constance Bennett. Garbo just wants to go home, but then she’s about to be discovered and decides instead to pretend to be her own twin sister. Hence the film’s title.

While one Garbo is “proper,” the other is a “vamp.” She goes out with Douglas’s business partner, Roland Young, and attracts Douglas (out on a date with Bennett). Then he finds out she’s really his wife and spends the rest of the movie tormenting her.

There are some Catholic Church-mandated (yes, really) changes to the film, which make Douglas’s arc a lot more manipulative in regards to Garbo, but the film still ignores the Bennett situation. The extant version has Douglas dumping Bennett to prime Garbo for mental abuse. Without the changes, he’s just done catting around with Bennett and ready to cat around with his wife’s twin sister.

Needless to say, S.N. Behrman, Salka Viertel, and George Oppenheimer’s script doesn’t have much going for it. Ruth Gordon–as Douglas’s assistant and Garbo’s confidant–has some great scenes, but it’s more in Gordon’s performance than anything else. It’s the presence of the scenes and Gordon. Gordon and Garbo’s relationship is about the only positive to come out of Two-Faced Woman and it seems entirely accidental.

Cukor’s direction, as far as composition goes, is fine. Joseph Ruttenberg’s photography is solid. The matte paintings of the ski lodge are distractingly weak. Cukor’s direction of actors is similarly fine. He doesn’t do anyone any favors, but he doesn’t hurt anyone too much either.

The performances are generally fine or better. Douglas is not. Even without the mandated revisions, his arc in the script is a mess. He starts the film is a doofus, then gets to romance Garbo. In their first scene together, Douglas can’t stop pawing at her and there’s some energy and brewing of real chemistry. But then it’s back to work and the movie’s then double deception and no more real scenes for Douglas and Garbo. No more chemistry.

Garbo’s good. Her parts aren’t well-written, but she tries and sometimes succeeds. The movie’s tone is all off though, thanks to the edits, so it’s hard to know if she’s succeeding because of something revised or something intentional.

There’s a great ski finale. The script runs out of ways to prolong the third act and instead there’s a ski chase sequence. It’s lots of physical humor and expert stunt skiing. Almost like a reward for sitting through more now humorless scenes of Douglas teasing Garbo. Again, maybe they were humorless before.

Either way, Two-Faced Woman doesn’t do anyone any favors. It does Garbo the most disservice and was her last film, though she didn’t intend to retire because of it. But even if it wasn’t responsible for Garbo’s retirement, you wouldn’t really blame her if it were.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by George Cukor; screenplay by S.N. Behrman, Salka Viertel, and George Oppenheimer, based on a play by Ludwig Fulda; director of photography, Joseph Ruttenberg; edited by George Boemler; music by Bronislau Kaper; produced by Gottfried Reinhardt; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Greta Garbo (Karin), Melvyn Douglas (Larry Blake), Constance Bennett (Griselda Vaughn), Roland Young (O.O. Miller), Robert Sterling (Dick Williams), and Ruth Gordon (Miss Ellis).



THIS POST IS PART OF THE GRETA GARBO BLOGATHON HOSTED BY CRYSTAL OF IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD.


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Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, John English and William Witney), Chapter 10: Doom Ship

There’s nothing nice to say about Doom Ship’s opening cliffhanger resolution other than it’s short and leads into an energetic fight scene for Frank Coghlan Jr. More than ever, Coghlan’s got the wrong timing for turning into Tom Tyler’s Captain Marvel this chapter. Unlike the times when Coghlan’s been over his head, in Doom Ship he gets to play the hero to good result.

The action quickly moves aboard the titular Doom Ship. The remaining archaeologists discover they need to go back to Thailand and since no one trusts one another, they all head back. They set sail same day. Ocean transport is very convenient, apparently.

The ship sequence is probably the serial’s best lengthy action stuff so far. There’s a storm going and the ship crashes into a reef. Can Coghlan and company get off before it sinks?

Lots of action, lots of tension, lots of good effects. And Louise Currie not just getting to be damsel in distress, but entirely unconscious damsel in distress. Far be it for Doom Ship not to fall into at least one Captain Marvel trope.

The excellent special effects and tight pacing make Doom Ship a fine chapter. Although it does seem to be an aside, an exercise in filmmaking competence, rather than a ambition ramp up for the serial’s finale.

CREDITS

Directed by John English and William Witney; screenplay by Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Arch Heath, Joseph F. Poland, and Sol Shor, based on the comic book by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; director of photography, William Nobles; edited by William P. Thompson and Edward Todd; music by Cy Feuer; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Frank Coghlan Jr. (Billy Batson), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Whitey Murphy), Louise Currie (Betty Wallace), Kenne Duncan (Barnett), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), and John Davidson (Tal Chotali).


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