THE BAD SEED (1956)

Some films don’t  sit in areas of   style or content that fit a particular genre. THE BAD  SEED (1956) is thought to be Horror film,   a Film Noir or  a thriller.  Where  it fits  in the canon is not important only that it is  a strong film yet not to everyone’s taste.  THE BAD SEED (1956) fits right along with  WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE (1962) and HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964) as a  story  of  urban terror.

The Warner  Brothers  picture came from a Maxwell Anderson play from a novel by  William March.  Shot in moody black and white which still packs a punch for stories of this nature THE BAD SEED became one of the biggest hits of 1956. You can have a good story, good images but if the actors and Director and other  personal make poor choices then  the  film can be a missed opportunity this is not the case.

THE BAD SEED shines from the moment it opens with the quirky music mixing child rhythms and simple piano melodies which will become important later on by Composer Alex North.   The star of the show  is  Patty McCormick  as the  eight year old  Rhoda Penmark who is doted on by here parents Christine Penmark (Nancy Kelly)  and Col Kenneth Penmark (WillIam Hopper).

The love  expressed is sickly in nature with platitudes of  ‘doing no wrong’ and ‘The perfect child’ gushing out as Col Hopper is leaving on a work trip.   McCormick uses a high pitched voice to utter her  ‘Daddie’s’ and ‘Mommie’s while all dressed in “Pippi Longstocking’ braids and little  dresses.   Christine doesn’t look like a child of the fifties but a strange Doll contrivance reminiscent of the use  of a other Doll in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE (1962) .

 

 

Nancy Kelly as her mother Christine is high strung herself yet  doting on her  Daughters  whims. She tries to be a firm parent in tone at times yet looses the point of her talk when the  master manipulation begins by Rhoda.  She desperately wants her husband to stay but  Military work calls him away so he must go.  They have a strong marriage bordering of  desperation on Christine’s part as  shown when they kiss almost frantically as the Colonel is leaving. One senses this is a wife and  a mother on edge of what  we  do not as  yet know.

Evelyn Varden plays Monica Breedlove who is  a sort of nanny/ companion to both Christine and  Rhoda.    Breedlove  is  forever complimenting Rhoda on her perfect she is when she curtsy’s when guests arrive is always saccharine polite.   She tells Rhoda that she should have won the Penmanship medallion  which was  given to a classmate Claude Daigle as  she was the best at her school only the others  didn’t  see it.   Rhoda is  disappointed deeply yet the  anger and temper simmers just below the surface as  her expression darkens.

This not a childish disappointment to be  gotten over by gifts or  ice cream.  There is  something behind Rhoda’s  eyes when she hugs you see her expression switch to something malevolent  when not  visible then back again to sweet when she is seen.  Rhoda entertains herself by taking the covers the  soft heel covers off a pair of shoes to create  tap dancing boots  so she  can  click on the wooden floor much to her personal glee. Rhoda and her mother leave for a picnic and nearby park with her school friends.

Later when  back at home Christina and Monica her a  radio News report that a yet un identified child has  drown at a nearby park lake. This throws the home into panick as everyone thinks it is Rhoda but child is identified as Claude Daigle; the boy who won the prize.  It is also said that he had several abrasions on his face and head thought to bruising from the water knocking  him into the wharf. Christine is also worried that  Rhoda will be  traumatized as  she  saw the child’s corpse.

Rhoda’s teacher Mrs Fern (Joan Croyden) visits saying that Rhoda was  last person to see Claude alive and was  seen grabbing at his metal which would indicate a connection yet she stops short of accusation.

The story becomes  darker as connections are made and  Rhoda’s deep psychosis  comes to the surface yet always unpinned by the smile. Christine finds Claude’s penmanship medallion in Rhoda’s jewelery box and  demands to know  how she got it. Rhodas cajoles her even to the point of physically stroking her mothers next cooing that she ‘has  the best Mommie in the world  and the best family’ in an act similar to a master petting an  animal.

Christina makes  desperate calls to her husband yet he cannot get away from his duties but will try.   Christina also goes through the revelation of  a horrid family secret by her father Author Richard Bravo (Paul Fix) who comes to visit and see  his grand daughter.   Christine finds  her own origin in terms of a  parental confession is not what  she thought it was but something  entirely different that has  unleashed something beyond her control.

Several other roles complete  add color to this story particularly Ellen Heckart as the mother of the boy killed at the picnic  Hortense Daigle.   Heckart gives one of the best performances as a intoxicated broken mother seeking answers from Rhoda.  She know s Rhoda with with her soon Claude on the wharf and wants to know ‘any little thing’ or ‘thought’ he might have said in his last moments.  She makes catty remarks  about people’s hair being dyed and  how she is not  educated and  rich like all the people in the house only to be lead  away by her husband Henry Daigle (Frank Cady)

 

 

Jessie White as  Emory Wages  and Gage Clark as Reg Tasker  round out the family friends all  thinking that Rhoda is the perfect child.

 

Special mention to actor Henry Jones as  the slow, dimwitted gardner/ handyman LeRoy Jessup.  Jones in the best role I have seen him play shines  as  the  only person who sees Rhoda for what she is and enjoys what he sees.  Jessup calls her at one point ‘Mean’ which is okay  for him as he is ‘Mean’ as well.  Jessup taunts her with the  fact he  knows what she is thinking particularly  in a  wonderful moment as the two exchange  vicious  barbs while Rhoda is having a  imaginary tea party outside with a  gift she  got from her father. Rhoda  tosses him some straw packing material from  her  gift for his bed which is located in house basement next the  furnace.  Jessup knows all about  Rhoda before anyone else does as  he  taunts her  about her shoes with hard soles which will become important.

 

 

Revelations grow culminating in a shocking abrupt moment similar  to  NIGHT MOTHER (1986) which was also a play and a film.  The evil will be avenged by something greater than us all even if it contains  a ‘curtain call’ credit sequence meant to restore reality.

THE BAD  SEED (1956) is not your average thriller  film as it being characters thrust into a  orbit around a  single person unleashing a  chain of events. The actors were  many that originated their roles  in the Broadway production. Academy award nominations of which all would  lose featured one for Nancy Kelly for  Best actress, Best  supporting actress for  both Patty McCormick and Elleen Heckart and  Best  Cinematography for Harold Rossen

THE BAD SEED  was  remade for  television in 1985 and  was poorly received only to be remade again in 2018 with  Rob Lowe  directing.  Patty McCormick takes  bow as  Doctor March in the  film.

 

THE BAD  SEED (1956)  features  a wonderful ensemble  and  creative team that brings  this story that appears simple on the  surface yet grows  more insidious. You may notice that some of  actor blocking and movement is  theatrical in nature. You watch the  disintegration of a  family and a  change  of values for all.  True today we  never  really know what really  goes on behind someone’s eyes.

 

 

 

 

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SUPERMAN (1948)

Film is primarily story telling and entertainment and nothing brought a generation of  children and  sometimes adults back to the  theater  then the  Serials.  Those  deeds   of  daring do taking place in  jungles,  lost cities,   Outer Space, a frontier  town,  to under the sea by  groups of  kids in a  gang  or a solitary  figure be it  Hero or intrepid  reporter, lion  trainer, detective , military officer or in this case an visitor from another planet.   The high flying adventures of Superman were a natural fit for kids all ages and the movies.

The fifteen part Columbia produced serial SUPERMAN (1948) featured  actor Kirk Alynn in the title role. Mr Alyn  who’s real name was  John Feggo Jr, is the first to play the live action MAN OF STEEL predating George Reeves on  the  television series  from 1951 to 1958.   It was the  first time the audience saw in ‘real life’  Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and  Lois Lane. The serial was  Directed  by Thomas Carr who later also worked on some of the initial television shows.   The style  was  naturally slam band  with  quick cuts, little dialogue, lots of stunts and the cliff hanger ending bringing the audience back.

SUPERMAN (1948) gives us a first glance at the origin and  arrival on Earth and adoption by the  Kents who find him when driving  home.  This sequences in the  first episode  called SUPERMAN COMES TO EARTH is very reminiscent of Glenn Ford/ Phyllis Thaxter finding scene in SUPERMAN (1978)  with almost the same style of  vehicle and  folksy humor. Kudos  goes out to the  film makers if  that was a homage.

 

The cast also features the  first live action Lois lane in the person of Noel Neill.  Neill was a  former pinup model during the  Second World War second only to Betty Grable. She was a regular in Monogram Studios and Republic Pictures  usually playing women in Distress.

 

he  also sang with Bing Crosby and performed regularly at his club.   It has been said that Lois lane was based  partly on Torchy Blane  character from the  film series  from 1937 to 1939.    Neill was  ‘Lois  Lane’ in the follow up  feature film with Kirk Alyn titled ATOM MAN VS  SUPERMAN (1950) .

Neill was so identified with the role that she   took over the part from Phyllis Coates after  the  first year of the  George  Reeves series due to  Coates committing to another project. Neill went on to be associated with  SUPERMAN by appearing in retrospectives.    Both her  and Kirk Alyn played Lois lanes’s mother Ellen on screen along with Alyn as  Sam Lane in SUPERMAN (1978).    Phyllis Coates would play Ella in  LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN Television series. While  Coates initially distanced herself from the role . Neill embraced it by giving talks on college campuses, attending conventions which endeared  herself to people with her warmth and  good humor.  A statue of “Lois lane’ in the likeness of Neill’s character was unveiled by her in Southern Illinois  city of   Metropolis  in 2010 as a lasting legacy.

 

The rights to the  character were obtained by Sam Katzman who would  go on the produce two Elvis Presley films and one by the  English pop group Herman’s Hermits.  The rights  were difficult to get at the time because Superman was huge with the  Comic audience plus he was only ten years since first appearing in ACTION COMICS issue number  one in 1938. Bob Kane/ Bill Finger creation Batman appeared in DETECTIVE COMICS issue twenty seven  in 1939.  Batman  had already appeared in live action  format  in the 1941 serial BATMAN and  BATMAN AND  ROBIN (1949).    Superman was more demanding character as one was dealing with heat rays, super breath, super  strength and of course flying on screen.  First National Comics  which later became DC wanted full control of the story hence negotiations were slow due to the later Classic Max Fleisher Cartoon series sold to Paramount.

Katzman tried to sell the property to Universal Studios but they had stopped making serials   Republic Pictures refused as  it was thought the “Flying” was impossible to duplicate on a budget so  the deal was made at Columbia Pictures.  The picture had many writers  including which  was pretty much they way series worked.

Katzman found Kirk Alyn by looking through photographs. he was   a  ‘hard sell”  to DC representative  Whitney Ellsworth.  Alyn did not  endear himself to the role by showing  up for the audition sporting a  goatee and  mustache as he was shooting another project. The  role was his in fact he  was  billed as only playing Clark Kent  not Superman.   Alyn performed  all the stunt himself with exception of  a leap from the back of  truck by Paul Strader.  Strader only did one stun in the series and had to leave production with a broken leg

 

SUPERMAN(1948) concerns  the Spider lady (Carol Forman)and her gang getting control of  the Reducer ray.  The  gang also discovers Kryptonite  at the effect it has on the MAN OF STEEL.

 

 

Plenty of car wrecks, Jimmy Olsen (Tommy Bond)heading to fiery doom of a blast furnace,  Runaway trains,  bullets  bouncing off people and crappy Perry White (Pierre Wadkin) growling as he  sends  Clark and Lois on assignments that prove  dangerous.

SUPERMAN (1948) was shot  entirely in the Los Angeles area and  surrounding Chatsworth in San Fernando Valley. The flying stunts were considered the  weakest asset  of the series which  featured strong writing  as you find Alyn holding a pose followed by animation of Superman in flight.  Alyn was  said to have spent an entire day strapped up in prototype of today’s wire work rigging with movable background of clouds which did not prove  effective so the animation was used.     Superman’s landings always occur in the foreground of the frame and landing are always behind objects.  Clark has  yet to prefect the trademark telephone booth change into costume so that was handled  behind objects like  rocks or trees

Alyn tends to strike poses almost to the point of caricature  but he makes up for it with  strong look and  voice of  Clark Kent that would set the visual standard for all that followed.    The stunts  range from holding a  running automobile, going  into fire,  x ray vision and  bending railroad tracks which must have been pretty cool to see.  Alyn’s  fighting  usually was him tossing around the actors ending with Superman holding up  two of them and knocking their heads together.

SUPERMAN (1948) was originally presented as a Saturday matinee yet after the  first three episodes it proved  so popular it played in “first run” movie houses that had never booked  serial It proved  to be  a “tremendous financial success” for the  studio and  for  Sam Katzman.  The  serial also made stars out  of both Kirk Alyn and  Noel Neill as  both went onto the other things all be it  similar.   Thee series now is available  for  viewing while dated in  approach and  budget it still has  strong genre writing and  good   old fashioned  slam bang, gangster shoot em up   entertainment.    Movies can  still be fun so its onward to another 80 years or more of  SUPERMAN.  Today we  need Heros even more.

 

HOMECOMING (1948)

Firstly let me say i have weakness for these so called  ‘Women’s pictures’ which became a genre in of their own.  I  was skeptical of HOMECOMING (1948) since it was a later career Clark Gable picture and I read in some biographies of how he disliked  the material he received.   In this instance both Clark and Lana  received a gem.

HOMECOMING (1948) was   Directed by Mervyn Leroy from the same studio that gave us the quintessential Hollywood  coming home war picture of the  forties: MGM’s  THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946).    Hollywood had a market now for this style of picture with real drama occurring during the demobilization of all countries.  MGM had capitalized on the war story of  Girl/boy find each other and part because of shipping out as shown by the roles  of Van Johnson  as  the “fresh faced” soldier to the female cast next to him  to the brilliant  Judy Garland/ Robert Walker  picture  THE CLOCK (1945).  What makes all those films and indeed what makes any picture of that scope work for me is the  story and the ensemble that executes it.

 

HOMECOMING (1948)  was one of the  first roles Clark Gable was assigned to  after the death of Carole Lombard in plane crash in 1942.  The  first  being ADVENTURE (1945) which  was touted in the poster  that  GABLE IS BACK AND GARSON’S  GOT HIM’ followed by THE HUCKSTERS which was  another “soldier home in transition’ film  this time  with Deborah Kerr.  The main difference from all of these previous pictures being not quite successful or fulfilling for some is that HOMECOMING (1946)  is not an action picture but one of the heart.    I suggest  its  cerebral picture much like  the thinking in spite of the action, seaU storms and battles that goes on in  Gable/Crawford picture  STRANGE CARGO (1940).  Gable also gets to star against the underrated  Lana Turner who worked together  in HONKY TONK (1941) with whom he had better  on screen chemistry.

The story is quite simply American Surgeon Ulysses Johnson (Clark Gable) is coming home from the War.  As his ship nears the port of New York City the story unfolds in flashback.   Ulysses is  successful with huge house and wife Penny played Anne  Baxter.  They are childless because Ulysses never thought it was necessary or cared.  He is a ruthlessly efficient  surgeon who inspite good intentions reneges on promise to help  college  chum and  fellow  medical person Dr. Robert Sunday (John Hodiak) with  files he wanted  a consult on.   Sunday visits the  Johnson’s residence on the eve of Ulysses  leaving  for the  War only to find his work has not been done.   An argument ensues between the  two old friends  with Sunday accusing Ulysses of not caring for anything  in fact  going to war because its the  ‘place to be”.   Penny walks in ending to confrontation.

Penny and Ulysses promise not change because of the War as he goes off to do basic training. He gets assigned Nurse Lt. Jane “Snapshot” McCall (Lana Turner) and their adventure begins  through Europe. The two grow close as  want to happen in War yet they maintain their dignity. McCall has a  Son who’s Father was killed in China years before. Ulysses writes Penny each night professing his love for his family and telling her of  the hard nosed  nurse. McCall even  give  Johnson the  nickname of  “Uless” in fun. Of course the inevitable happens and sparks  fly but for all the right reasons  and with  dignity.

The picture  features a lightly naughty but fun bath sequence in which McCall asks Ulysses and  Lt. Col. Avery Silver  (Ray Collins) to have a bath with  her at  near by Roman ruin.  Avery begs off  and both Ulysses and  McCall go it alone with some amusing results.

 

 

McCall gets reassigned as  per  regulations.  They finally kiss in the doorway of Ulysses’s  tent with Turner  walking into the background in a  brilliant shot very reminiscent  of GONE WITH THE  WIND (1939).

 

Johnson gets leave in Paris where he meets McCall again by chance who has  yet to be reassigned.   The two head off in the Battle of the Bulge where they work together again. They grow  close but he  ‘belongs to someone else’ and their affection is unspoken till one night as  they are surrounded  at Bastogne when they both sadly reveal their feeling. The affection come out with words and gestures and almost a poignant admittance  to their Love masterfully handled  by both Gable, Turner and the choice of shots with lighting.

The story shifts to Penny Johnson and her  growing belief that she has lost her husband to ‘Snap Shot’ which she confides to Dr Sunday who is a family friend.  She  even tries to guess which one is  ‘Snap Shot’ from a picture of  the  unit Ulysses  send home

The story changes and people change. How can one  not be changed  by the experience of war of  operating sixteen hours  a day, watching people die including  personal friends like  Monk  (Cameron Mitchell)who delivered the Johnson’s laundry now   Sgt. Monkevickz who asked Johnson to look at him before he left for the  War. Canada makes  it into the film when Monk (Cameron Mitchell) say he is going off to fight in the Canadian army because they are fighting now much to the belittling of  his choice by Ulysses Johnson.

Lana Turner is wonderfully sensitive  as  the  not so glamorous Nurse Lt. Jane “Snapshot” McCall.  It is never explained  why her character is called  Snap Shot by all in the  film perhaps it is  her  cool efficiency which her character  shows in operating room situations. Turner does  well in military clothes as she  did before in the  KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY (1945) in which she was a motor pool mechanic complete with grease.  This offers Turner an chance to do what she did  for  years like no other  and that was  shed small tears very slowly without moving a facial muscle.

 

The  cast  is rounded out  by wonderful rock solid John Hodiak as  Dr Robert Sunday who like his name suggests is  the  pious center of the picture. Hodiak does  well in his moments with Gable as  the  two spar in great give and take  session.  Hodiak also offers the  shoulder  confessor to cry on for Penny Johnson who was played by his real life  wife Anne Baxter.    John Hodiak when onto an all to brief career in film which is a shame  due  to his  dark intense looks and  well modulated  tones could have been so much more.  Hodiak passed away tragically  at  age forty one of a fatal heart attack.

 

Anne Baxter looks  very inch the role of the wife.  Baxter variations of this role of  the unsure  glamour girl  like she  did in this picture  and  in  CIMMARRON (1960) as  Dixie Lee.  She wears the clothes well and does  the mannerisms well yet  leaves one with tone of  unsure about her life which is exactly what  the  roles  requires.   Her tone is light in speech which changes with one  crucial sentence when talking later  in the film to Ulysses.  Baxter is the  faithful wife that Hollywood  and Louis B. Mayer wanted  in HOMECOMING (1960)

Life had taken its tole on Gable which is only evident in a sequence in which the lines on his  face are evident during a  flashback moment of both him  and  Penny meeting for the first time.

HOMECOMING (1960)  is limited in action sequences  in spite of the  War going on plus there is some judicious editing of history. One cannot help but think that when one sees Ulysses Johnson wistfully or  tenderly   thinking on screen silently it is not Clark Gable dreaming of Carole Lombard and their  years. Life and  Art all in one. The picture  offers a  good  cast  with Gable, Turner, Hodiak and Baxter shining right along side  THE BEST YEARS OF  OUR LIVES (1946)

CASH ON DEMAND (1961)

Watching film which is supposed to be a ‘World wide ‘  art form one can become centralized on the Hollywood model.     The  British have always done a  strong job with the  spy thriller as long as the maintain their essential “British flavor”. There is a tone in their Television series  from  the sixties I.T.V series THE  AVENGERS  to the films  like the classic  Hitchcock Directed THE 39 STEPS (1935).  CASH ON DEMAND (1961) is perhaps not  in the same  cinematic league as those yet is is a refreshing excursion into the heist film.

CASH ON DEMAND was produced by HAMMER FILMS and distributed  by COLUMBIA PICTURES in  1961  which was the same year as the initial James Bond offering DR. NO.  HAMMER FILMS was getting notice for their remakes of Horror films and sequels that splashed color,  gore and  sexuality on the screen.   The studio also did  a series of pictures  dubbed  ‘Physiological thrillers”  by the names of  CRESCENDO (1970) , TASTE OF FEAR (1961) plus others. These  starred as would most of the early Hammer productions the same  troupe of actors usually with a choice newcomer or  big name sprinkled in sometimes  an  American for marketing purposes.  Black and  white films are always  a favorite with me and  CASH ON DEMAND does not disappoint in that department.

Plot wise we have a story about the  perfect crime of a theft of 97,000  pounds sterling from the a  city bank  in a  small town during a snow storm.   The star of the picture is  Peter Cushing who plays Bank Manager  Harry Fordyce who is menaced by Andre Morell and Col. Gore Hepburn.    Hepburn  masquerades as a bank insurance  person come to test the alarm system.

The initial glimpse of Peter Cushing as  Fordyce brings that  stylised ‘British flavour’ forward as he  brushes off the banks outside sign when comes into work.   He is ruthlessly efficient and cold towards his staff as he asks one of the women to remove her Christmas cards from her desk as they are  not  ‘Dignified.”   He dresses  proper in conservative style with  limited  body movements and speaks in clipped tones.   This a man  who is in total control of his world which is the bank, knows  his  job and  his and other peoples place in the  scheme of things.

This is contrasted by the  younger employees of the bank which sit on desks when Fordyce is not in.  The  men try to date the women and  flirt shamelessly foreshadowing the  young peoples  new  ideas  of the  sixties  England that  were trying to replace the old ways  in  ‘Swinging London”

 

 

The world of the Bank is turned upside down when Hepburn reveals his true intentions plus he has  kidnapped Fordyce’s  wife and  daughter who will be  killed  if they do not succeed.  Fordyce must keep this  secret from his staff as he  goes about the alarm check  and other duties.    Morell and Cushing do some excellent  verbal sparing through out all the while  with  Morell’s  character holding the  ace of having control of Fordyce’s family.  The staff  that Fordyce rules  with managerial coldness learn of the plot.   Fordyce begs them to do nothing because of his wife and child however  the wheels have been set in motion. The  terrified bank manager must endure  a police  visit Detective Bill Mason (Kevin Stoney).

Tension abounds  with little bits of  business between the actors which Cushing was  famous for developing himself. Little quirks of character like the lighting of  cigarette or pipe and drawing on it in a special way.   The placement of  desk items in easy reach for a moment.  One also takes  tea  differently if on is a manager at a  bank then the usual person. The  pivotal physical turns  when he spins to face a adversary are all different each time these are all hallmarks of actor building character  which is  to often not seen or a lost skill.

 

CASH ON DEMAND (1961)  features taunt writing by David Chantler and  Lewis Griefer keeping  the  dialogue down to size and short direct  scenes.  Director Quentin Lawrence who actually performed  the same function on the original television adaption of this story  called THE GOLD INSIDE’ for program called THEATER 70 keeps the action rolling and  the  setups  to a minimum. Action is in shot  inside the Bank plus  outside on the street in the snow all in glorious properly photographed with shadows black and white.

CASH ON DEMAND (1961)  runs  sixty six minutes in original  form  pumped up to eight nine minute late on.  It seems like a hard picture to find on networks  yet it is  well worth solid film making on  budget with good  characters  and  a story.

 

 

 

 

 

EMERGENCY CALL (1933)

Love to drift back into pre code dramas of all types from the “Dangerous Horrors” of  THE MASK OF  FU MANCHU (1933)  to the  Warren William  pictures so this  trip into the hospital world of  EMERGENCY CALL(1933) was looked forward to. Lets step into the waiting area, grab a  hard wooden bench for  seat and enjoy.

The aspect that these films bring is that they are so delightfully subversive in the medical world following  in the  “white shoes”  of  MEN  IN WHITE (1934) with young Clark Gable to Barbara Stanwyck’s bow   in  NIGHT NURSE (1931).   These picture became a genre unto themselves as  the  DR KILDAIRE  and  DOCTOR GILLESPIE series   later  BEN CASEY plus many others.  EMERGENCY CALL (1933)  Directed by  Edward L. Cahn for  RKO studios combines  the world of romance with  crime.   I suggest that the romantic elements were to keep the women interested while the  Crime  was for the males interested  in the  two fisted  action.

Bill Boyd plays  the  role of Dr. Joe Bradley who is  about to marry into the family of the man who runs the hospital.  Bradley wants to prove  himself  yet  is rather  naive sort of fellow  even forgetting his kit on his  first  emergency call with Steve (William Gargan) . Bradley  even goes the wrong way in the building when he arrives  as he learns from Steve  in a  rather cruel by today’s standards way  that all patients at this time’ are at the  top of the stairs and weight  three hundred  pounds”.

Gargan in the  role of  Steve is good counterpoint in the action between Bill Boyd’s style as he wisecracks his way by being street wise and familiar with  the  other  lowly medical people.   The thirties   featured  snappy  dialogue between men and woman and this is not exception at Steve  set up a  romance between himself and Mabel (Wynne Gibson).    There is  fun words  exchanged when  Steve calls Mabel by the name of  Wiennie which  she dislikes and  asked the  matron not to call  her that.   The matron dresses  down  Steve who should be spending more time on his work and less with the  flirting.  Good  moment   when Steve  says ‘hey  I only want to marry the  girl”. The matron  turns to leave and you can see  a  funny smile on her face.

These light moments work well as the  story turns up the crime elements as  the hospital becomes a haven for  “ambulance chasers” and ” insurance scammers” run by the underworld in the person of (Not  FANTASY ISLAND.)  Mr Rourke (Edwin Maxwell).   The racketeers  set up accidents with there own people by tossing themselves in front  of  vehicles to collect  damages. One  such person  Sammie (George E  Stone) is recognized by  Steve  as  he is being brought in and  is   harassed by him resulting in Sammie  leaving the hospital much to the surprise of the head  administrator  who fires Steve and Mabel on the spot.    They are both  reinstated and which   when the romance between Steve and Mabel blossoms into being asked and  accepting of  a date.

Good moments in the  style of thirties romance however the  story takes  a dark turn with scandals  and cover up at the highest level of the hospital.   Punch ups, murder and  death for an unexpected  reason blend into the moralistic  ending

Bill Boyd who is actually billed ahead of all the cast had a  huge  career before this picture which was made just before his career took off ina  role he would be identified with that being the  two fisted  pure  action hero  HOPALONG CASSIDY in 1935.  Boyd would go onto play “Cassidy” in sixty six  films and short lived  Television series  Boyd does  well in the role playing it low key and  righteously naive later in the action sequences his  fists  fly against the  villains.   Elevators go up  as  the  fights  get  multi leveled even rescuing his buddy Steve who is  knifed  from behind.

 

 

Wynne Gibson  had  the  blonde precode  look about her  very similar to Miriam Hopkins  in face structure  and  body type who had many famous roles in pre code times  such as (With  William Gargan)  THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE (1933)  and DR. JEKYLL AND  MR. HYDE  (1931) with Fredric March.   Wynne plays the comedy well in EMERGENCY CALL (1933)  plus shift well as the  story changes to dark overtones and tragedy.   The character of  Mabel makes a interesting  if not self  righteous  journey at the end of the  film but that  was the  style for the time. It is nice touch that the name  “Wiennie” which she does want to be called in the  film is  similar to her real first name.

Disturbing  moment in this  film occur  when Steve continually calls Mabel ‘My little  Wiennie” on the  date culminating  him  him  holding here close and slapping her three times  saying the name making Mabel cry.  Steve then says  ‘Now that”s  settled’ and the date continues without incident.  This  was  not  as  bad as  the moment  with Joan Blondell  in SMARTY(1934) which is  filled  with references of  women loving to be  hit by men even the  point of ‘Liking it”.  Two sided comment of the state of  relationships  and the way Hollywood saw the institution of marriage which had to be upheld at all times  yet allow  for  violence in the name of preservation.

 

The  rest of the cast rounds  out  well from the contract player  at RKO  with  villians being tough a large physically and meek when they have to be.  Paul Fix  who had large  and distinguished career in  Westerns, Crime  pictures  and  later  even as  “Dr. Piper” who was the precursor  to “Dr.McCoy” in the second original Television pilot of STAR TREK  has a brief role as Dr. Mason.

EMERGENCY CALL (1933)  paces  well into it   running time  sixty  five  minutes. It  features  early screenplay credit  for Joseph L. Mankiewicz who went on to do a  few other  good things in Hollywood.   For some  reason it is hard to  find picture which  can happen as  well all know yet it  gives  one a chance to see  Bill Boyd before he became William Boyd and began riding horse on those  dusty trails.

 

 

THREE GODFATHERS (1936)

I don’t mention Westerns very much since honestly I don’t see many with exception of  STAGECOACH (1939), THE SEARCHERS (1956),  THE WILD BUNCH (1969), both versions of  CIMARRON (1931) plus (1960)  and the Clint Eastwood Modern classic THE UNFORGIVEN (1992) plus a host of others. I do watch more than I think they just don’t appear make me  want to explore it as much  I do as much other styles. This middle  remake  the THREE GODFATHERS (1936)  struck a chord with me begging me to mention it.

This THREE GODFATHERS  (1936) edition Directed by Richard Boleslawski is the  remake of the John Ford 1916 version of course to be later tailored for  John Wayne in Technicolor in 1948.  The Western genre is one of the  few that works effectively in  black and white or color.  The non color adds to claustrophobic style allowing one to better concentrate on the actors.   An intimacy with the film and the audience with an example of John Wayne’s bravo first Hero shot with his gun upraised and saddle by his  side  in STAGE COACH (1939).

This is a film hero larger than life and get ready for a story.   Technicolor added the vistas and natural beauty which also let well to the telling of the stories against a broader canvas.

The picture’s story does’t really change  as one find Three bank robbers finding a wagon containing a dying woman with a child with whom them pledge to take care.    Leaving out the biblical parallels of three men, wise to the ways of the world,  wandering in the desert with a  child you get a story of perseverance and  self persecution.

Lewis Stone who would go on to be  known as Judge Hardy from the ANDY HARDY series gets a turn as a grizzled gun fighter James Underwood who is  worn by age and memory.    No matter how you try to disguise Stone’s voice those tones come through particularly when the “Shakespeare” sequence. Stone  has long and varied career with many styles of  roles yet this picture shows him a sad person filled  with life to the point of being like Roy Batty in the rain on the rooftop from  BLADERUNNER (1982) remarking that it is ‘Time to die”.

Walter  Brennan gets what proves to be his life long role he would do variations of as  the not so intelligent  yet sincere   Sam Bartow.   Underwood and Bartow have an strange  affinity for each other as they hint at the past.   Bartow  hints  that Underwood was to tell him about a packet of letters he has been carrying a round only to see them burned.  The both act as confessors for each  in the desert as the  journey continues.  The two also act a  buffer between the  baby and the tough, black clad leader Bob Sangster played by Chester Morris. Barstow and  Underwood take a more active role in the care of the child giving it their ration of water and limited food which Sangster will have nothing to do with.

Chester Morris was one of those that I and  a few others refer to as  being from the “Lyle Talbot  School of Acting’.   Lyle had the good looks, the voice, a variety of roles yet for  reasons unknown was never thought of as a “Star”. They would have streaks of success as Morris had with “BOSTON BLACKIE” series of films and radio adaptations.  Morris would get to play against the likes of Jean Harlow in RED HEADED WOMAN and Wallace Beery in THE BIG HOUSE in the  thirties.  Morris later drifted into smaller roles obscurity of B films and television .   Bob Sangster is  hard and nails bank robber who is first against taking the child.    He lets  Underwood know he should  get rid of the books he salvaged from the wagon.   He is also more action oriented then the other two as it is Sangster  that  find the horses gone and does his level best to find them.

One harrowing moment features  Chester Morris as  Sangster abandoning the child several times only to turn back as the child is crying and discharge his gun.  The camera lingers on  the desperate, dirty, Sangster and when the child falls silent you thinks the worst.  The picture then cuts back to a calm baby and a dead rattlesnake beside him. Sangster sling the child up and  continues  into the desert.

THREE GODFATHERS  (1936) makes good use of the scenery as the  desert looks dark and  foreboding at night and a bright, scotched hell kitchen in the daylight.  Sound is a strong suit as there is often an absence of it with exception of dialogue and slight music particularly in on moment featuring a single gun shot. The  vast empty dusty world  figures strongly as one morning Sam Barstow strides through the sand to his destiny.

Western Religion fills the screen on more that one occasion in subtle and  not so subtle ways which fit what the  studio being MGM has to do for the story to get passed the censors and the Catholic Legion of Decency.  Today one  may scoff at the control these groups had yet in the  thirties in  Hollywood a studio could not afford  to have a picture destroyed at the box office.  Real power was within these groups to forbid people to not see a picture which they often obeyed.

THE GODFATHERS (1936)  features Mojave Desert locations which must have been novel for the actors  and difficult for the crew. One can imagine Klieg lights,  makeup running, in the  desert plus the assorted wild life without today’s  facilities.  The picture also features a look the three aspects of ‘family” from the  action male or father played by Chester Morris to the dutiful son by Walter Brennan and the the nurturing mother by  Lewis Stone. The family is set up to fail because it is not traditional and all order must be restored through a return to a proper  family by  the  “Grace of  God” Still it is an interesting  “buddy’ film to see.

 

GOLDIE GETS ALONG (1933)

This little  film was a programmer like so many of the  sixty minute pictures made  yet if  you watch many of them you can  find moments of fun.   GOLDIE GETS ALONG (1933) stands out for the curious fact that its stars the one and only Lili Damita or  as  we  mostly know here  as  Mrs  Errol Flynn.    There are moments  of  genuine film making  supplied by Director Malcolm St Clair and a solid supporting cast.

The  story is one that had been done before in different variations of the  the young girl usually in a  strict family or small town who wants to go to the big city of  Hollywood. There is usually an act of  defiance by the  young  girl wanting the dream like staying out late or  forsaking duties. In this  film  Goldie stays out late to the  wrath of her family when after  a fight she finds out her mother  was a  ‘common” woman.  That is   last  straw and  Goldie leaves for Hollywood leaving her  boyfriend Bill Tobin very ably played  by Charles Morton.        Tobin  shows  Goldie a house that he  has bought where they can live and of course have  kids.  Goldie insists  that she  go to Hollywood with him even  more because  Tobin has a  college buddy who is  a big Director there.  He refuses  even forbids Goldie from going which of course results in the opposite happening.

The  difference  now is  that Goldie has  no money so she basically hitch rides her was to various adventures  even enters beauty contests along the route  each  giving a  cash prize or a  trip to Hollywood.

Goldie delivers  some  sassy dialogue to Sam Muldoon (Sam hardy)  who promises her the moon and beyond to   “go places with him’ Goldie  steals  the  car again only to find it is actually the  mayors  car.   The   two end  up in a  small town  jail escorted  by policeman Motorcycle Office Cassidy (Nat Pendlton).   Great  dialogue between Goldie  and  Cassidy later when  she asked   Do you really think I  could steal a car”  and he replies  I think you could steal a locomotive.”   Lots  of  nefarious goings on in beauty contests  as  Goldie is pursued  by Bill Tobin to bring her back make up the rest of  the film.

So why is  GOLDIE  GET ALONG  ( 1933)  so interesting?  One aspect is  the performance of Lili Damita as Goldie which is  spot on i f not  cliche not cliche now due to her  accent.  Damita has a  devastatingly bright  happy smile with wonderful  dark eyes which  play to the camera  quite well   almost  reminiscent of Jean Harlow. Her  accent  apparently is  what  doomed her career  as it  became  a novelty in early sound days  in Hollywood along with another female  Fifi de Orsay . The similarity   between  Damita and De Orsay was that Damita’s  accent was  real not a studio manufacture although De Orsey’s Parisian ancestry was a  creation.   De Orsey was  born Marie-Rose Angelina Yvonne Lussier  in Montreal Quebec Canada  who went onto a long career while  Damita became more  known for who she was married to then what she did.

GOLDIE GETS ALONG (1933) features some  fun if not  routine situations for the time. Good cast which makes some vicious comment on the morals  of Hollywood  and  how a wholesome person should not go there.

It features people some of which had longer careers  such as  Nat Pendelton who went onto play muscle bound types  with hearts of gold or  gangsters.

 

Charles Morton who I always thought looked like a  “Ralph Bellamy” type had a career  cut short by sound which amazes me  as he  delivered  dialogue well .   Lili Damita was not  given a  far shake as  so many did and  became  a mother  to Sean Flynn who would disappear in Cambodia during the war.

Lili Damita is  the star of this one  even for a moment or  at least sixty plus minutes which  would  not be much like that again.  See  her smile  and those  eyes if you can

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