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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ROMANCE IN MANHATTAN (1937)

Francis Lederer & Ginger Rogers get a nice rapport going in this R.K.O. romantic-dramedy programmer, but can’t quite make it come off. He’s an illegal Czech immigrant (shy of the entry fee, he jumps ship) and she’s an under-employed chorine who meet-cute over coffee & donuts. Unofficially staked out on her apartment roof, Lederer’s quick rise toward the American Dream is stymied by a taxi-drivers strike; missing identity papers; a couple of welfare biddies out to ‘save’ Rogers kid brother; and a crooked lawyer with empty promises. While the texture of the film is stymied by a lack of location shooting (though some of the fakery is cleverly done), the film gets a big boost from its tasty supporting players. (Did R.K.O. have Sidney Toler, Arthur Hohl, Donald Meek & J. Farrell MacDonald all under contract?) The film also offers an opportunity to see more of the promising work of director Stephen Roberts, just 40 when he died a couple of years on. (A noticeable Capra vibe in this one.) But you can really feel the R.K.O. ‘Number Crunchers’ figuring out the projected grosses and deciding the film couldn’t support the cost of further development to fix what, at best, was a B+ programmer. Too bad, especially for Lederer who never broke thru as a romantic lead after coming over from Czechoslovakia.

DOUBLE-BILL: Check out Lederer’s career trajectory with a look at the delightful Mitchell Leisen/Billy Wilder MIDNIGHT/’39 where he plays support to Don Ameche’s taxi-driver, a starring role that might have been his.

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