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Sunday, August 8, 2010

THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN (1944)

Warners waited two years before releasing this stinker. It begins well enough as a young Sam Clemens lives out events he’d later use in his writings, but once he quits his post as riverboat Captain, the movie just drifts along without a dramatic rudder. Irving Rapper did his best megging on 'Woman's Pics' (like NOW, VOYAGER/’42), but he’s all thumbs here. The final cut tries to cover itself with rotating newspaper headlines, zippy transitional montages & musical interludes, but it truncates the family & business meat of the story. Even ol’ reliable Max Steiner was flummoxed, endlessly rehashing a musical cadence built on the river slang call ‘Mark Twain.’ Fredric March & Alexis Smith strike few sparks as the Twains and a typically fine Warners supporting cast gets little to do. A sad comedown from the glory days of Warners’ Great Man bio-pics when William Dieterle worked with Paul Muni & Edw. G. Robinson. (And doubly sad to see an egregious racist ‘ghost’ joke in a film about the man who wrote HUCK FINN.) - Check out the spelling in this German poster. Geez!

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Except for THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER/'37, Mark Twain hasn't fared well on the big screen, but Hal Holbrook's one-man show MARK TWAIN TONIGHT /'67 is out on DVD. He's 85 now and still performing it!

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