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Saturday, August 29, 2015

FEEL MY PULSE (1928)

Director Gregory La Cava (MY MAN GODFREY/’36; STAGE DOOR/’37), with one of the best (and loosest) comedy techniques in the Biz, wastes a nice set-up on this innocuous Bebe Daniels programmer. Orphaned, and chained to an eccentric will that makes her an over-pampered hypochondriac at 21, Bebe swaps Mild Guardian for Wild Guardian and finds she’s about to be forced into a world of romance, adventure & germs. No thank, you! She’d rather take refuge at her family’s mothballed sanatorium, unaware it’s been taken over by a gang of rum-running bootleggers. Quicker than you can say Speak Easy, slick front man William Powell gets his gang to hide in plain sight by feigning a variety of psychosomatic maladies as the spa's pretend patients and passing himself off as Bebe’s new personal physician. And he might have pulled it off if only his handsome assistant (Richard Arlen) didn’t fall for the poor little neurasthenic rich girl. A pretty sweet idea, loaded with comic possibilities, but La Cava barely develops it, tossing out little more than a bit of turf-war slapstick and a messy finale when the cops arrive. Fortunately, Bebe, Bill & Richard are highly watchable stars even in Grapevine Video’s subfusc DVD.

DOUBLE-BILL/LINK: William Powell stepped up from scene-stealing heavy to major leading man in another release from 1928, co-starring with Emil Jannings & Evelyn Brent in Josef von Sternberg’s phenomenal THE LAST COMMAND. (Available on an excellent Criterion DVD.) Arlen’s major film that year was William Wellman’s BEGGARS OF LIFE, a tremendous entertainment with Louise Brooks & Wallace Beery in tip-top form. Available in lousy Public Domain DVDs, check ‘em out on YOUTUBE, then watch this gorgeous restored trailer to see what it really should look like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S81cMoSP9OA

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