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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941)


James Hogan’s play was filmed three times (‘33. ‘41 & ‘48), and this second outing was best, a small-scaled charmer that’s much more than the sum of its parts. The rare pairing of James Cagney & Olivia de Havilland is magical, especially for Cagney who often got stuck with second-tier co-stars. He’s a self-taught dentist with an Irish chip on his shoulder and she’s a nurse with progressive ideas. Cagney really wants to step out with gorgeous Rita Hayworth (in her breakout year), but loses out (as always) to his overly-ambitious friend, Jack Carson. The exceptionally well-made script from Julius & Philip Epstein finds warmth & believable eccentricity in its 1890s NYC landscape & characters, even if helmer Raoul Walsh is stymied by Warners oddly drab, sub-par production. (Lenser James Wong Howe spends a lot energy hiding backdrops & tired cycloramas.) But Walsh gets the sentiment & comedy right, never going overboard, and he certainly gets something special from longtime supporting players like George Tobias & Alan Hale. The finale pulls all the story strands together like a great comic opera: toothsome revenge, a heartfelt/well-earned declaration of love & affection, an off-stage donnybrook, even a sing-along. It really sends you out with a glow.

CONTEST: Raoul Walsh remade this 1941 b&w beauty as a far less effective TechniColor musical in ‘48. And, oddly, another Hollywood director remade his 1941 b&w beauty as a far less effective TechniColor musical, also in ‘48! Weird. Name the other famous director and his two films to win our prize, a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of the NetFlix DVD of your choice.

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