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Friday, January 24, 2014

CAIN AND MABEL (1936)

Marion Davies’ penultimate pic, the third of four she made @ Warners after leaving M-G-M, is a tiresome retread trying to hide under a couple of gargantuan production numbers and Clark Gable’s commercial pull. Marion plays an unlikely musical comedy star whose show needs a box-office boost; Clark’s a heavyweight champ who can’t raise a crowd; but PR tout Roscoe Karns thinks a set-up romance between these two would make ‘em The Talk of the Town. Here’s the gag . . . they loath each other. Even in 1936 this was threadbare stuff; and between Bobby Connolly’s jumbo-sized but joyless song-and-dance routines (as stiff & stilted as if Davis never left M-G-M) and the Kabuki-like make-up on Davies to camouflage the puffiness, this one hasn’t got a chance. (The careful lighting & ‘just so’ camera angles give her a frozen-in-the-headlights look.) Walter Catlett is in there pitching as a grouchy, straight-talking B’way producer, but everyone else is on auto-pilot. Marion, too.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Davies’ defenders think she comes off best in a couple of late silent comedies from King Vidor, THE PATSY/’28 and SHOW PEOPLE/’28. Yet, even here her work pales next to similar films with Colleen Moore or Mary Pickford. But BLONDIE OF THE FOLLIES/’32, a dramedy from top scripters Frances Marion & Anita Loos, would be a revelation . . . if only it were available! It pops up on TCM so perhaps a VOD is in the offing.

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