Archive for ‘Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’

February 28th, 2011

I Love You Again (1940)

I Love You Again I Love You Again I Love You Again
You be careful, madam, or you’ll turn my pretty head with your flattery.
I often wished I could turn your head – on a spit, over a slow fire.

Happy (VERY) Belated Valentine’s Day, dear readers! This year for Hallmark’s most important holiday, I wanted to watch something a bit off the beaten rom-com path without delving into territory too arcane. When I asked myself what elements I felt were important for an enjoyable romantic comedy experience, I came up with a pithy list of adjectives that included “sexy” and “sophisticated.” Who better personifies such a combination than that comedic dream team of William Powell and Myrna Loy? Answer: NO ONE.

So, I queued up W.S. Van Dyke’s 1940 love letter, I Love You Again, in which Powell plays a stuffy, by-the-book teetotaler named Larry Wilson. Loy is along for the ride as his suffering wife. When Larry is knocked unconscious after a decidedly screwball accident (during a pleasure cruise, one too many grape juice and gingerales has him jumping overboard to save a drunken man), he awakens with amnesia and the revelation that 10 years prior, he used to be a con man named George Carey. Apparently the only thing that Wilson and Carey have in common is their attraction to Kay Hijinks ensue.

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February 13th, 2011

Penny Wisdom (1937)


She’s decided to bake something. . .probably a cornerstone for the new town hall.

Penny Wisdom, one of “Pete Smith Specialties,” is a culinary film that won the 1937 Oscar for Best Short Subject, Color. The rather pedestrian plot goes a little something like this: Housewife Chloe Smudge (a gum-smacking Gertrude Short) is informed by her husband (Harold Minjir) that he’s bringing his boss and best client home for dinner. Unfortunately for the Smudges, Chloe’s a bit of a tyrant and the household cook has quit. On her own reconnaissance, she attempts to conjure up a multi-course meal, with disastrous results. Following a near nervous collapse, Chloe is rescued when the narrator (Pete Smith), calls his pal, Prudence Penny of the LA Examiner, to assist the little wife with her kitchenly duties.

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October 18th, 2010

The Women (1939)

The Women The Women The Women

A woman is compromised the day she is born.

1939. It is a year cited by many as one of the greatest in cinematic history. Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Ninotchka, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? All released in 1939. On the eve of a war that would forever change predefined notions about humanity, it seems fitting that Hollywood should produce some of its most memorable meditations on the nature of good versus evil, preservation in the face of destruction, idealism apropos reality, and the toll that such struggles reign over its subjects.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. That very same day, on the other side of the Atlantic, MGM released George Cukor’s comedic classic, The Women. At first glance, The Women seems nothing more than a marriage of style, wit, and star-power, thereby marking it anachronistic to the geo-political battles raging behind its birth. And yet, it proved to be one of the year’s top grossing films, a box-office juggernaut that lifted itself beyond the laurels of Clare Booth Luce’s play, and into a territory all its own. Why? Let’s peel back the onion’s layers and take a peek. . . read more »

September 29th, 2010

The Thin Man (1934)

The Thin Man The Thin Man The Thin Man
Would you mind putting that gun away?  My wife doesn’t care, but I’m a *very* timid fellow!

I had every intention of writing about 1936’s Satan Met a Lady this week, mainly because I wanted to do a three part series about Golden Age productions of The Maltese FalconSatan Met a Lady is the middle child of these efforts, and also the only one to deviate from a strictly dramatic treatment.  As a comedy/crime hybrid, I was intrigued and willing to give the film a far greater latitude than I usually would when regarding incarnations of a famous work.  However, despite the best efforts of one, Bette Davis, the entire film was so haphazardly put together that I barely made it through the modest 74 minute running time.

While I certainly do not think that only “good” films are worthy of deconstruction, sometimes it only takes a single fatal flaw to kill a picture.  When that happens, there’s only so much you can say.  In this case, the failure had less to do with reconceptualizing Dashiell Hammett’s classic tale of murder most foul, and more to do with someone’s insistence that Satan Met a Lady follow in the footsteps of another Hammett property:  the wildly successful cinematic rendering of The Thin Man.  Unfortunately, the dialogue is so turgid and the laughs so forced, that instead of enhancing the criminal aspect of the plot, they create a schizophrenic effect which in turn renders both elements impotent.

Certainly Satan Met Lady was not the first, nor the last, attempt to capitalize on the success of the crime turned comedy procedural.  A whole slew of debonair detective themed pictures cropped up around the same time, indeed William Powell himself was involved in the Philo Vance pictures, a series which predates The Thin Man by a few years.  Then, of course, there is the “Fast” series that revolves around Harry Kurnitz’s novels about Joel Sloan, a rare-book dealer moonlighting as a detective.  Yet I am hard pressed to think of any effort that out performs, or even pulls fair with The Thin Man. So that, dear readers, leads us to the topic at hand. . .

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