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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ONE WAY PASSAGE (1932)

He’s fated to die on a bum rap. She’s fated to die from a bum ticker. But it’s love at first sight for William Powell & Kay Francis as the exquisite(ly) doomed couple in this heavenly piece of romantic nonsense. Oh, it’s easy enough for smooth William Powell to get around Warren Hymer’s San Francisco flatfoot, but when this ‘wanted man’ spots Francis, the ravishing creature who bumped him ‘mid-cocktail,’ on the very ship that’s supposed to carry him off (and please note the early use of a zoom-lens), he gallantly gives himself up. Once on board, phony Countess Aline MacMahon, an old pal, helps distract attention by making a play for the cop. And Frank McHugh, another crooked old pal, picks a few wealthy pockets & plays cupid to both couples. (Designer Orry-Kelly does her own kind of distracting with some daring decolletage that turns the Francis chest into a heart.) Director Tay Garnett doesn’t waste a shot on this one, keeping the sentiment brisk & getting stellar perfs out of his cast, including uncredited scene-stealers like Hugh Mundin & Roscoe Karns. With a French soundtrack, you’d swear it was a precursor to those classic Jean Gabin poetic-realism pics. Maybe that’s why Parlez-Moi d’Amour plays in the background.

DOUBLE-BILL: Barely remembered these days, and largely for her ‘twouble’ pronouncing ‘R,’ 1932 was Kay Francis’s big year. Seven titles, including two under William Dieterle & one each for King Vidor (CYNARA) & Ernst Lubitsch (TROUBLE IN PARADISE).

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: If the film’s gifted cinematographer Robert Kurrle isn’t as well known as Warners stalwarts Sol Polito, Arthur Edson, Tony Gaudio or Ernest Haller, he should be. And not just for the cool zoom shot. But he died the year this came out (he was only 42) and few of his 69 sound or silent titles are available or extant.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY II: Did Howard Hawks spot/swipe the swell opening gag with the coin dropping into the spittoon? He had Dean Martin use it in RIO BRAVO/’59.

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