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Sunday, November 1, 2015

PITTSBURGH (1942)

Randolph Scott & John Wayne are a couple of coal-mining pals who go from rambunctious to ambitious after taking a gander at glamorous Marlene Dietrich in this low-rent rehash of M-G-M’s BOOM TOWN/’40. Scott takes the Spencer Tracy role as the nice guy who follows the lead of ‘alpha-male’ Wayne in the Clark Gable spot. That leaves Dietrich, for the first time in her career, shadowing another glamour girl, Claudette Colbert. It’s standard B+ fare for Universal, rather poorly megged by Lewis Seiler, with Dietrich knowing she’d be better off with dependable Scott, but unable to get Wayne out of her system. Halfway thru, things get a bit more interesting when they drop BOOM TOWN for an earlier Tracy pic, THE POWER AND THE GLORY/’33 where Tracy loses his soul in single-minded pursuit of business success. Now, both guys are in Tracy parts!* Scott as M-G-M’s softened Tracy and Wayne fumbling a bit as the hard-nosed, abrasive Tracy from his FOX days. Doubly odd since Wayne’s catch-phrase to Scott is ‘I love ya, Cash. So help me, I love ya.’ It might have worked with a different director or if WWII didn’t necessitate a patriotic redemption for Wayne’s intriguing heel, along with a load of didactic lecturing on all the uses of coal tar (!), palaver clumsily shoe-horned in by folksy narrator Frank Craven. Disappointing.

DOUBLE-BILL: *Neither BOOM TOWN nor the over-rated POWER AND THE GLORY (scripted by Preston Sturges) live up to their reps. Instead, try Wayne & Dietrich together in SEVEN SINNERS/’40

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Of course, there are many Two-Pals-Fighting-Over-A-Gal pics and plenty about guys who lose their souls going for the big brass ring in business. But the writers here really do seem to have set their eyes on BOOM TOWN (a big recent hit) and GLORY (with a narrated flashback structure letting us believe that a main character is no longer with us).

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