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Monday, October 21, 2013

IS MY FACE RED? (1932)

There were enough fast-paced newspaper dramedies in the early ‘30s to support sub-genres such as this little number about a Walter Winchell-like gossip columnist. Right now, he’s riding a speakeasy murder ‘exclusive,’ juggling longtime B’way steady Helen Twelvetrees against society dame Jill Esmond, and still making time for his nightly radio broadcast in-between hitting all the night spots in town. But with no rat-a-tat-tat pace and Ricardo Cortez smiling wanly (and only showing chemistry with the terrific Arline Judge as his loyal secretary), the stakes & energy level are distressingly low. And what’s with that Italian accent from film heavy Sidney Toler? He already sounds like Charlie Chan. The megging from William Seiter does little to enliven things, but there’s a brief reprieve near the end when he suddenly sits on a single low camera set-up for an entire three-page dialogue scene. Suddenly, the film seems to have possibilities.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Lee Tracy, B’way’s original Hildy Johnson in THE FRONT PAGE, was born to play this sort of thing. Try BLESSED EVENT/’32, one of his best. Zippy, nasty, and with a tasty debut from a very young, very funny Dick Powell.

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