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Saturday, December 11, 2010

FLIRTATION WALK (1934)


Dick Powell, still in overgrown choirboy mode, plays an army grunt in Hawaii who can’t quite make the grade with visiting army brat Ruby Keeler. Maybe West Point can make an officer & a gentleman out of him? Then he’ll win her heart. This wan hybrid from Warners (an Oscar nom for Best Pic!) mixes service comedy with schooldays hazing, romantic misunderstandings and let’s-put-on-a-show dramatics, then wraps things up with marching soldier boys & heaps of flag-waving. Did Frank Borzage, that master of lyrical romance, really helm this? And who came up with the opening: a military exercise that features a mock aerial attack on . . . Pearl Harbor?!! Maybe the same guy who decided to spray Pat O’Brien’s mug with tears of pride at Powell’s graduation and to keep Keeler from dancing a single step. Well, we do get to hear Powell sing at a luau . . . in Hawaiian! But the best reason to watch this is the chance to see Ross Alexander, a famous Hollywood casualty, who’s immensely likable as Powell’s roommate. This would set him up for great supporting roles in next year’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (as Demetrius) and as Errol Flynn’s best-pal in CAPTAIN BLOOD. What a sad, sad waste.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Keeler & Alexander made their Warner Bros. swansong as co-stars in READY, WILLING AND ABLE, shot in '36, released in '37. By the time the film came out, Alexander was dead and got demoted to fifth billing.

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