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Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Just two years after filming Sidney Howard’s THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED under Victor Sjöström (as A LADY TO LOVE/’30), Edward G. Robinson made this knock-off for Howard Hawks. And he’d have a third go at the basic storyline in Raoul Walsh’s MANPOWER/’41, with Marlene Dietrich & George Raft. (What a line-up of directors!) This is the best of the lot. Neither a primitive Talkie, nor awash with echt-Warners’ ‘house-style,’ it’s paradoxically more blunt and more delicate; made in that brief period when sound films got up on their feet, without yet yielding to the demands of a standardized ‘product.’ The well-worn story follows two pals, best friends on & off the job, who fall for the same down-on-her-luck gal. Since it’s the decent, homely guy who first spots her qualities, she marries the butter-and-egg man and hopes for the best. But secretly, she longs for the sexy best man; and the fever is catching. This iteration sets it all in the Portuguese community of coastal So. Cal. and throws in some eye-popping footage of commercial tuna fishing; a couple of gruesome shark attacks; and plenty of Hawksian ‘bromance’ for Eddie G. and his manly mate, Richard Arlen. (Though it’s nothing compared to the homoerotic currents running between Kirk Douglas & Dewey Martin in Hawks’ THE BIG SKY/’52.) And the little-known, underrated Rita Johann is just great as the girl who comes between them. She's a bit like Susan Sarandon, and worth checking out in THE MUMMY/’32 and in D. W. Griffith’s much maligned final pic, THE STRUGGLE/’31.

And take a moment for these unusual Lobby Cards with their hand-colored painterly look . (Click on them to enlarge.)

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