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Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The loamy plot of this romantic-triangle from M-G-M is full of manure, and Harry Beaumont’s megging holds to the stiff rhythms of early Talkies, but the film’s worth a look just to see Joan Crawford and fast-rising Clark Gable in the process of fine-tuning their screen personas. Crawford’s a dinner club chantoosie who thinks she’s engaged to traveling salesman Neil Hamilton. But when he ditches her for the boss’s daughter, she’s ready to jump off a bridge. And that's when Salvation Army man Clark Gable steps in. (Nicely staged with the camera holding on their shoes as the drama plays out.) Joan reforms herself and sparks to Gable; then Hamilton reappears. Will Joan dump solid Clark for this smoothy? Will she regret her past . . . or her future? The young Crawford is a revelation for those who only know her later work. The lumbering technology of the day helped tame the unfocused energy of her flapper period, and she’s far less rigid & controlled than she became. (Charles Rosher’s fine-grained lensing doesn’t hurt, either.) You can’t do an easy comic impersonation of this Joan. But don’t blink, this early softness wouldn’t last long. Gable was also emerging, but as what? His previous pic (THE SECRET SIX) showed off a cool sexual confidence that moved past his initial tough guy roles. Even with sixth billing he stole the pic. (The studio saw it happening and gave him that film’s final shot.) Here, he’s charming in his Salvation Army outfit, even with those darn flapping ears, but the story removes the rough-and-ready edge. In his next pic, he’d give studio Queen Norma Shearer a slug in the puss . . . and then a big wet kiss. That put him over.

CONTEST: More than two decades later, Joan would return to M-G-M with a film that has two easy connections to this one. Name them to win our usual prize, a MAKSQUIBS WriteUp of the NetFlix DVD of your choice.

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