The previous installment of Brief Impressions went over well, so let's do it again.
Rather than poring over reference materials and winding up with two thousand words (or more!) per movie, following you'll find four different movies covered in the same amount of space.
This time around:
No Other Woman (1933)
Charles Bickford is a real piece of work in this one!
He starts out most contentedly employed in a steel mill with very little respect for any man whose job isn’t as demanding as his.
He and Irene Dunne’s character are in love, so what does Bickford do the first time we see them together? He mocks Dunne’s star boarder and good friend, played by Eric Linden, for having a wimpy white collar job. “Where I work we make steel and it takes real men to do it,” Bickford says. Linden lowers his head in shame.
The Bickford and Dunne characters marry and life doesn’t go exactly as Bickford expected. Dunne grows their bankbook by trimming the household budget and taking in more boarders. They enjoy a large banquet together each night while Bickford growls over his dinner alone in the kitchen.
When Linden discovers a new kind of dye Dunne becomes excited and is sure she can convince her husband to invest. But when Bickford comes in with a larger than usual chip on his shoulder he picks a fight and runs off to spend his paycheck on a good time. He stumbles home drunk that morning with a female barfly the only thing holding him up.
Regret comes the next morning. After smoothing over things with Dunne he takes a look at Linden’s dye. Bickford is impressed and decides the thing to do is form their own company rather then selling the formula for a one time payout.
A few years pass and the Stanley and Zarcovia Dye Works mushrooms from a single shabby barn into several buildings, each looming higher and wider over what had stood before. Bickford is filthy rich and he and Dunne now have a daughter. But with money comes trouble.
Bickford has to spend a lot of time in New York and its there that Gwili Andre plays siren. J. Carrol Naish looms as well, a wink signifying his being in cahoots with Andre. Andre tells Bickford he must leave his wife to marry her. Bickford initially rejects the ultimatum before eventually slinking back to Andre to accept.
Dunne refuses to divorce Bickford, telling him his feelings for Andre are something he has to work out his system, just like that wild night he'd had back in the old steel town. The showdown between husband and wife winds up in a courtroom when Bickford presses for the divorce and lawyer Naish attacks Dunne with charges of adultery.
Directed by J. Walter Ruben, who we came across last week with mention of Success at Any Price (1934) and previous to that on The Phantom of Crestwood (1932). Each of those movies, including No Other Woman, was an RKO release.
No Other Woman has not had a video release. It airs occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.
Side Streets (1934)
Paul Kelly plays a boyish galoot, basically good at heart, who can’t contain himself from straying from his even more kindhearted wife, played by Aline MacMahon.
A pair of infants receive cool treatment in Side Streets and that’s likely to upset some viewers. These babies are loved and treasured when they arrive, but later tragedy and hardship are met with too little feeling from the actors playing their parents.
We meet Kelly as an easily distracted sailor who finds himself unemployable due to past indiscretions at sea.
Hungry and penniless he spots MacMahon feeding peanuts to animals at the zoo. He slides over to grab any food that drops while a policeman studies him from behind. The cop approaches after he witnesses Kelly steal half of a banana that the seemingly oblivious MacMahon has peeled.
MacMahon not only shoos the officer away, but invites the hungry man home for a meal. Kelly is grateful for her kindness and accepts a further invitation to stay the night in an extra room of MacMahon’s home above her fur shop. Over breakfast the next morning she offers him a job.
While MacMahon’s employee, Tillie (Helen Lowell), is suspicious of Kelly from the start, he and MacMahon carry on a sweet low key romance that ultimately leads to the altar.
Kelly is none too bright and doesn’t make for a furrier, nor anything of any skill at MacMahon’s shop, but he seems content as her delivery boy. All appears well.
Until he stops off on the way to a delivery and whispers sweet nothings to Ann Dvorak, obviously not for the first time.
When circumstance quells that affair Kelly seems as though he’s once again on the straight and narrow. And he is for a time. But eventually he cannot resist the charms of MacMahon’s niece (Dorothy Tree), who is brought in to help around the shop.
That later romance just may prove to be the end of Kelly’s sedentary days at MacMahon’s side, but as Side Streets comes to its conclusion our big good-for-nothing has one more chance to all at once follow his heart and do right by his wife.
Aline MacMahon is a treat as always and seems to be the only one capable of the proper emotion throughout Side Streets. Her scenes of wheeling and dealing on her showroom floor are entertaining, especially her handling of the tactless Mr. Richards (Henry O’Neill), who spends money in her shop on a showgirl and shows up again later with his wife. MacMahon is much more reasonable, generous even, with a budget conscious Mayo Methot.
Paul Kelly was a lot younger than I am used to seeing him in Side Streets. I was also surprised to discover that he had been busy as a child actor since the 1910s. He reminded me of character actor Warren Hymer in this one. His Tim O’Hara is quite rough around the edges, leaving us inclined to agree with Tillie's judgmental eye, but Kelly allows us to see enough of what the MacMahon character sees to earn a bit of our affection. Even if he is a dog.
Strange part for Ann Dvorak. Quite a bit of the story hinged upon her involvement with the Kelly character, but in the end the lesser known Dorothy Tree seemed far busier in Side Streets than Dvorak did.
Entertaining First National release from Warner Brothers released just weeks after the Production Code began to be enforced. Directed by Alfred E. Green, who once again packs a whole lot into 63 minutes of movie.
Side Streets is available as a DVD-R from Warner Archive. It is a part of a double feature also including Stranger in Town (1932). Side Streets also airs occasionally on Turner Classic Movies. It is next scheduled to air Friday, May 3, 2013 at 8:15 am EST.
Evelyn Prentice (1934)
The third of fourteen movies William Powell and Myrna Loy appeared in together. Also the third of 1934 following Manhattan Melodrama and the first of The Thin Man films. Featuring Una Merkel in support and the film debut of Rosalind Russell. Strong stuff from Isabel Jewell as well.
Powell plays defense attorney John Prentice, while Loy is—what else—his wife, Evelyn. They are very much in love, but his job is so demanding that they barely get to see each other.
While Powell is distracted defending Rosalind Russell, who makes a play for him, Loy’s Evelyn becomes target of playboy poet Lawrence Kennard (Harvey Stephens). Both Prentices are teased towards romance, but neither carries through. They remain devoted to one another.
After Powell wraps up the Roz Russell case he suggests the family, including daughter Dorothy (Cora Sue Collins), take a cruise to get away. Loy accepts and takes the opportunity to make a complete break with Stephens’ opportunist.
By this time the blackmailer has received three letters from Loy’s Evelyn and is ready to use them. But the drawer containing Evelyn’s letters also holds a gun which she grabs and points at Kennard.
Isabel Jewell plays the poet’s jealous steady. As she approaches his apartment a shot is fired and Loy is soon shown exiting through another door unseen by Jewell, who is soon facing a murder rap.
Evelyn Prentice is a bit darker than any of the other William Powell-Myrna Loy pairings. There isn’t any of the fun banter of The Thin Man movies, nor any moments of lightness beyond the occasional crack from Merkel. But even Una is somewhat subdued. Loy is especially wistful throughout.
Loy is even more down once she realizes Jewell is standing trial for a murder that she is convinced she committed herself. Despite her low volume Loy gives an outstanding performance, especially when we go to court for a far fetched but effective court scene that eventually reveals all.
That resolution springs from a bit of deceptive storytelling from earlier in the movie. Powell’s defense attorney is privy to information we did not get to witness earlier. Thus the trial plays effectively upon first viewing, but the viewer feels a bit cheated if they rewind to the murder scene.
Still must viewing for the Powell-Loy fan and much different from any of their other movies. Even Manhattan Melodrama had some lighter moments.
William K. Howard directed for MGM. Howard directed a few other downers I’ve seen including The Valiant (1929), featuring Paul Muni’s Academy Award nominated film debut, and The Power and the Glory (1933), from a screenplay by Preston Sturges.
Like Evelyn Prentice, good movies, but not exactly filled with uplifting moments.
Evelyn Prentice is available on DVD as part of the Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection from Warner Home Video. It also airs on Turner Classic Movies every so often.
Millionaires in Prison (1940)
Hard time for five millionaires actually turns out to be pretty soft in a prison with a reasonable warden, high minded doctor and Lee Tracy as the con who gets things done on the inside.
While one stool-pigeon meets a violent off-screen death there is barely any reason to fear for the safety of anyone detained inside this country club.
Probably the most menacing character is one of our millionaires, played by Morgan Conway, who, along with Chester Clute as his nervous partner, is attempting to fleece the prisoners out of their savings. Somehow that kitty reaches fifty grand.
Thurston Hall and Raymond Walburn are two of the other millionaires. They are inseparable and completely harmless, spending most of their time agonizing over gourmet menus with the same attention to detail I give my fantasy baseball line-up.
The fifth millionaire is Dr. Bill Collins, played by Truman Bradley, whom the prison doctor (Selmer Jackson), soon has running tests for a serum to cure Malta fever.
Of the five convicted millionaires only Conway is wholly unlikable while Clute is least visible as his harmless lackey. Hall and Walburn are especially out of their element, there for us to laugh at. Bradley, as the Doctor, is a good man gone astray who is given a chance to redeem himself professionally while serving his time.
The prison houses eight inmates to a cell, so these five remain together and, to give an idea of just how terrifying this prison is, are placed with a trio of prisoners played by Horace McMahon, Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards and Shemp Howard of The Three Stooges.
No uke playing for Ike, though he sings a little. Really kind of sad to see how small his and Shemp’s roles are.
It’s 15 minutes into this 64 minute tale before we meet top billed star Lee Tracy as Nick Burton, the prisoner who had been described to each of our millionaires as the man to know inside.
Tracy’s face sags a bit more than it had and he’s nowhere near the motormouth that he was during his pre-Code peak, but that’s not to say he’s quiet. He has the trust of the inmates, which he tempts by backing Conway and Clute’s scheme, and is in good standing with the warden and prison doc as well.
Linda Hayes (Cathy Lee Crosby’s mother) is second billed playing Bradley’s girl on the outside. Her part is pretty small, but as you can see we’ve got a pretty crowded cast for just an hour of story. She shares a couple of her scenes with Virginia Vale, playing Tracy’s girl.
RKO Radio prison flick whose light mood is set from the time we meet Hall and Walburn. The tension comes when Bradley’s character is given a chance to cure four human guinea pigs that have been injected with Malta fever.
Directed by Leo McCarey’s younger brother, Ray, who had directed some Laurel and Hardy and Three Stooges shorts for Hal Roach earlier in his career. I assume that’s why Shemp was cast.
I enjoyed it once, but I don’t see any reason for giving Millionaires in Prison another viewing.
Millionaires in Prison has yet to have a home video release, but does occasionally play on Turner Classic Movies. It next airs on TCM Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 1:45 pm EST.
Leave a Reply