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Saturday, March 21, 2015

NAVY BLUE AND GOLD (1937)

Standard-issue military academy pic is all hazing, football & gobs of sentimentality as three sentimental gobs-in-training go to Annapolis. Top-billed Robert Young is the Alpha-Male jerk who needs to grow up; second-billed James Stewart’s the regular Joe with a secret behind his name; and sixth-billed Tom Brown plays the rich-kid runt who gets kicked around and comes up smiling.* Not a lot of surprises, but its fun to watch M-G-M trying to figure out what the heck they could do with this lanky Stewart kid. Hey, let’s put him on the Navy football team! All 6'3"/140 lbs. of him! Oof! (He’d break thru for good in ‘38 w/ Margaret Sullavan in SHOPWORN ANGEL; Ginger Rogers in VIVACIOUS LADY and Jean Arthur in YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU.) For romance, there’s pleasant, ineffectual Florence Rice as Tom Brown’s sister, navigating between Young & Stewart; and for gridiron inspiration, Lionel Barrymore takes to his sickbed. It’s that kind of pic.

DOUBLE-BILL: *Diminutive Tom Brown spent a lot of movie time in military academies. Before making ANNAPOLIS FAREWELL//’35, he got an early career push (which didn’t quite take) in William Wyler’s rarely revived, but fascinating TOM BROWN OF CULVER/’32 which featured the striking, if brief debut of 18-yr-old Tyrone Power. (And good luck trying to find it.)

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The script forces Young to lay on the prick act pretty thick. The better to redeem himself later. But before the big football game climax, he does a good deed in the boxing ring against a bully boy. Director Sam Wood resorts to the usual under-cranking for some phony excitement. But if you’ve got variable speed on your player, try slowing things down to regular speed and you’ll find a neatly staged bit of fisticuffs with Young far more convincing in real time action.

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