Tag Archives: Henry Kolker

I Like Your Nerve (1931, William C. McGann)

While I Like Your Nerve is urbanely genial, it’s a somewhat high concept romantic adventure comedy.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is a playboy–though not one of means–living it up in South America. He travels from country to country (they are, of course, so small he can drive) and stirs up trouble. But then he sees Loretta Young and it’s love at first sight.

Luckily she’s engaged (or Nerve would have no plot) and he has to win her away from her fiancé. The fiancé in question, played by Edmund Breon, is an old pervert with the runs. Literally. Nerve is gloriously indiscreet in its character details, a benefit of being pre-Code (another example is Fairbanks’s buddy, Claud Allister, who’s out of the closet).

Here’s where the high concept comes in… Fairbanks doesn’t so much have to win Young’s affections, but he needs to deal with her corrupt, but lovable, step-father (Henry Kolker) who’s selling her to Breon. Kolker is a government official, so Fairbanks has to tread lightly.

Nerve never gets particularly good, but it’s always mildly charming… sort of like Fairbanks. The whole point of his performance is to be charming; he succeeds. A textured performance isn’t his goal.

Young shows a fair amount of range in her role, though it’s a poorly written one. Kolker and Breon are both okay; once they get together and start arguing they’re fantastic.

Peter Fritch’s weak editing hurts McCann’s otherwise sturdy direction a bit.

Nerve is a pleasant diversion.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by William C. McGann; screenplay by Roland Pertwee, based on an adaptation by Houston Branch; director of photography, Ernest Haller; edited by Peter Fritch; music by David Mendoza; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (Larry O’Brien), Loretta Young (Diane Forsythe), Henry Kolker (Areal Pacheco), Claud Allister (Archie Lester), Edmund Breon (Clive Lattimer) and Boris Karloff (Luigi, Pacheco’s butler).


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The Mystery Man (1935, Ray McCarey)

I hope Robert Armstrong got paid well for The Mystery Man, because it doesn’t do him any other good. While it’s nice to see Armstrong in a lead role, the film’s so incompetently produced, it’s sometimes painful. Armstrong acts well but director McCarey doesn’t know how to compose shots. You’ll get what should be a close-up as a medium shot. Of course, the script’s bad too so Armstrong’s working against it too.

The plot isn’t terrible—Armstrong’s a newspaper reporter with more ego than sense who finds himself broke after a week-long bender. He meets Maxine Doyle, who’s in similar financial straits. The problem with the film is mostly Doyle. If she were any good, the film might be charming, regardless of technical merits and writing. But she’s awful—just painfully bad.

But so’s the rest of the supporting cast. Armstrong’s sidekicks, played by James P. Burtis, Monte Collins and Sam Lufkin, all awful. His bosses—Henry Kolker and James Burke—awful. Guy Usher turns in the closest thing to a decent performance, but he’s not good by any stretch.

Meanwhile, there’s Armstrong moving through these inept actors, trying to do what he can with the bad dialogue, on the incredibly cheap sets (the hotel suite appears to be the newspaper editor’s office too, based on the wall design)… and he maintains some dignity.

The concept isn’t bad; it could have been a good leading man vehicle for Armstrong… instead of an unfortunate, disappointing entry in his filmography.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ray McCarey; screenplay by John W. Krafft and Rollo Lloyd, based on a story by Tate Finn and an adaptation by William A. Johnston; director of photography, Harry Neumann; edited by Carl Pierson; released by Monogram Pictures.

Starring Robert Armstrong (Larry Doyle), Maxine Doyle (Anne Ogilvie), Henry Kolker (Jo-Jo), LeRoy Mason (The Eel), James Burke (Managing Editor Marvin), Guy Usher (District Attorney Johnson), James P. Burtis (Whalen), Monte Collins (Dunn), Sam Lufkin (Weeks), Otto Fries (Nate), Norman Houston (T. Fulton Whistler), Dell Henderson (Mr. Clark), Lee Shumway (Plainclothes Man) and Sam Flint (Jerome Roberts).


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The Ghost Walks (1934, Frank R. Strayer)

I’m not sure when the “old dark house” mystery film started–I haven’t seen any silent entries in the genre but I imagine there must be some, especially since the genre also appears to have been popular on stage. The Ghost Walks, in 1934–five years into talkies–shows the genre staling already. In an inventive plot development, it turns out the initial mystery of Walks is a fake, a performance arranged by a playwright (John Miljan) to impress Richard Carle’s Broadway producer.

It’s a fine plot development, only it occurs about fifteen minutes into the film, which means Charles Belden then needs to come up with an all new mystery. Though it does provide some humor–Carle and his assistant, Johnny Arthur, don’t believe the performance is over, even with people dying.

Belden comes up with another inventive plot point nearer the end. Not something I can share without spoiling a rather solid surprise (with a weak explanation, unfortunately). Belden has good ideas–he just doesn’t engagingly package them. I’m shocked he was able to withhold the final reveal, since he so impatiently revealed the play deception.

None of the acting’s unacceptable, though leading lady June Collyer is weak (while supporting Eve Southern is solid).

Miljan is a decent lead and Carle and Arthur’s bickering is amusing. It’s unfortunate Donald Kirke’s would be rapist never gets his comeuppance.

Director Strayer is clearly better than the material. He knows how to keep the actors moving, even if the script drags.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Frank R. Strayer; written by Charles Belden; director of photography, M.A. Anderson; edited by Roland D. Reed; produced by Maury M. Cohen; released by Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation.

Starring John Miljan (Prescott Ames), June Collyer (Gloria Shaw), Richard Carle (Herman Wood), Henry Kolker (Dr. Kent), Johnny Arthur (Homer Erskine), Spencer Charters (Guard), Donald Kirke (Terry Shaw), Eve Southern (Beatrice), Douglas Gerrard (Carroway) and Wilson Benge (Jarvis).


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