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Friday, September 25, 2009

THE GREAT MAN VOTES (1939)


John Barrymore is charming in this modest political comedy, helmed by Garson Kanin before he switched to scripting, about the last registered voter in a swing district. He’s a widower gone to seed after his wife’s death, fallen from the heights of academia to night watchman. Now, his in-laws are after his two kids (in swell perfs from Virginia Weilder & Peter Holden) just as the party bosses discover his unlikely importance. It’s the sort of set up Preston Sturges might have taken on a wild spin, but this breezy, lightly sentimental ‘take’ on the material brings its own small pleasures. Especially, in watching how Barrymore moves from high dungeon, to fruity elocutionist, to defeated worker, to loving/proud father. Kanin was fairly inventive with his cameraman (Russell Metty), and if the film doesn’t have the consistent bloom of his best outings (BACHELOR MOTHER/’39 and TOM. DICK & HARRY/’41), it’s still a sweet 70 minutes. (And check out the name & logo on the dairy truck of this 1939 RKO film: ROSEBUD. Two years later, another RKO pic would find better use for it.)

NOTE: This title, seen here on VHS, is currently available only on a Public Domain DVD edition, so beware!

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