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From the Depression to the Recession
LAUGH AND GET RICH (1931) is another charming comedy from the neglected Depression era director Gregory La Cava. It again touches on the director's favorite themes: the common man vs the greedy rich. This tale focuses on Joe Austin (Hugh Herbert), the nominal head of a family of three: himself, his wife, Sarah (Edna May Oliver), and his daughter, Alice (Dorothy Lee). Sarah is the practical one: having married Joe for love, she has had years to regret her decision, since Joe is a failed inventor, a dreamer, and an impractical big talker. In Sarah's view, Alice is about to repeat her mother's mistake: she is involved with Ralph (Russell Gleason), a young inventor/dreamer in her father's mold. Sarah would rather Alice date the smarmy Bill Hepburn (John Harron), a shady character who charms the unsuspecting mother. Herbert and Oliver make a believable couple, who bicker but have an enduring love for each other. Through various ups and downs, everything comes out alright in the end, and this charming antique is worth a look.
BUCK PRIVATES (1941) is the first starring vehicle for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello (they had previously appeared in A Night in the Tropics in supporting roles). They are funny and fresh, bringing some of their radio routines to this story of two penny ante schemers who accidentally join the army. The Andrews Sisters are on hand to lend their legs and their voices to the festivities ("Boogy Woogie Bugle Boy" is a show-stopper), and although the plot is predictable, the fast-paced film never gives you a chance to think about it too much. Directed by Arthur Lubin, who went on to create Francis the Talking Mule for films and Mr. Ed, the talking horse, for TV. The inferior service comedy, Great Guns (1941), starring the great Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, was supposedly influenced by this.
TAKE ME HOME (2011) A charming, modern-day screwball comedy, directed by Sam Jaeger, starring Jaeger and his wife Amber Jaeger. (She received Best Actor award at the Napa Valley Film Festival for her performance in this film.) The movie follows the misadventures of a would-be-photographer, part-time cab driver who gets roped into driving cross-country with a young business exec who is fleeing a bad marriage. It's a plot as old as films (most obviously seen in It Happened One Night, 1934) as the odd couple start off as antagonists and, slowly, through a whirlwind trip of discovery, they fall in love. Predictable but engaging, the cast almost makes the material seem fresh.
THE AGE OF CONSENT (1932) Dated drama, directed by Gregory La Cava, that is most interesting now not for its message attacking rigid public mores concerning sex ("Let the kids follow their natural inclinations") but for the picture of co-ed college life in the early '30s. The guys wear suits and ties, the women are in nice skirts and dresses, and the men ("the gorillas") are all after one thing, and it isn't ice cream. (Not to be confused with Michael Powell's penultimate film, from 1969, with the same name.)
September 30, 2012
BABY FACE (1933) Director: Alfred E. Green. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, John Wayne. Stanwyck sleeps her way to the top in this amusing pre-Code sex romp, although she finds things are lonely up there. Brent is the man she finally realizes she loves, only after he's attempted to kill himself. Breezy, speedy, and I love the way they show her career-climbing by panning up the windows (from department to department) of the bank she works in. July 20, 1991.