Tuesday 28 May 2013

Captain Blood (1935)

Captain Blood
The series of naval pictures of the thirties continue with ”Captain Blood”, the swashbuckling adventure film of 1935.

This is the quintessential afternoon pirate film of my childhood. What more iconic image than Errol Flynn, the pirate, swinging in the rigging as he boards the enemy ship? This film falls solidly into the same category as “Robin Hood” a few years later in a type of movies perfected by Douglas Fairbanks a decade before.

Forget about realism or even consistency. If you dwell on that this film is one long groan. Never has the life of the pirate been as rosy pink and the setting as cartoonish. This is a Hollywood fairy tale with a good solid happy ending. As far as I can tell only a single person actually dies (and he deserved it for potentially violating women, mind you – not that he actually did it) and when the villain is caught the merry band of pirates throw him into the water to survive rather than hanging him. Considering the amount of canon fire and hand to hand combat there are remarkably few casualties.

No, this movie is far more family friendly, with dashing heroes, fair maidens and plenty of funny (lame?) sidekicks. Everything is a tad overdone, including the acting, for max entertaining value. And it is entertaining. It is fun and exciting, with a good pace and sufficient storyline to be interesting. Once I decided to ignore the anachronisms and lack of realism I genuinely enjoyed watching it.

Errol Flynn with his Prince Valiant haircut is every bit the hero. He is the embodiment of gallantry, stoicism, backbone and can-do spirit. He will stand up against injustice and protect the innocent and he will fight to get his way, all the while proclaiming and laughing as if he is speaking to a theater audience. That is the kind of acting that works better if you are 12 years old than if you are 40. But if we for a moment pretend to be hopelessly naïve you just will not find a more dashing swashbuckler. And to his benefit, he is laughing less than in “Robin Hood”.

Warner Brothers gives us an entire hall of fame of actors in this film. We get Basil Rathbone as the colorful and frankly more believable pirate captain Levasseur, Olivia de Havilland as the fair-maiden Arabella and Guy Kibee who for once is not a dirty old man with money but a dirty old man with cannons. Plus a lot more. In fact the scale of this movie is staggering for its period. So many elaborate sets and colorful characters.

My favorite sets are those involving the ships. “Mutiny on the Bounty” may be more realistic with its taste of salt water, but boy, are the ships of “Captain Blood” magnificent! Those tall ships make my heart jump and blazing full sail on the high seas they carry the dreams of any boy. So much more pain to see them locked in battle chopping each other to splinters. Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Ohoy!

It is curious how the pirate of the Caribbean has become such a staple theme. I wonder where it comes from. I have lost count of the films and stories made on this theme and as a teenager I was playing Pirates! on my computer with great vigour. A romantic air has always surrounded these bandits, who are more often described as romantic heroes with a soft spot for damsels in distress and an overriding code of honor that seemed at odds with the entire pirate business. It is tempting to find the source of this image with the free spirit nature of the pirate and “Captain Blood”, the movie, in particular, but I think it goes back a long time before that.

While pirates have been the scourge of the high seas since antiquity and as a matter of fact still are, they did receive glory during early colonial times when governments in Europe equipped rouge captains with letters of marque to do “authorized” piracy. Some of these captains became heroes of their country, most notably Francis Drake, and the nature of their practice was thereby overlooked by the greater good they were doing for their country and king. For the victims I doubt there was much of a difference.

If you want to spend an easy afternoon and do not mind taking off the critical glasses you can do a lot worse that watching “Captain Blood”. Maybe as a double feature together with “Robin Hood”. Bring some popcorn and soft drinks.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Meshes of the Afternoon
I like film art. On art museums I definitely seek out the film art section as this for me is far more engrossing than paintings or sculpturing. Only installation art can measure up to the fascination I have for film art.

What it is I am getting out of it I cannot really tell. I am no art expert and my analysis of what I see is generally not very deep. Instead it is like a feeling or an impression or most often simply the world being turned upside down that makes me interested. It can also be hilariously funny, either because the artist induces a level of humor turning the installation into a prank or because the artist is so self-indulgent and pretentious that it is just laughable. I am sure the serious art critic would find the later attitude of mine amateurish, but hey, if I am having a good time watching the art, is that not a good thing?

Film art is different from art film. An art film would by me be considered in the same context as any other film. Is it interesting? What is the storyline, the acting, the cinematography like? Am I bored or did I love it. Film art does usually not comply with movie conventions. Cause and action relationships break down. At face value the film often makes no sense at all and the world it depicts may be surreal in the extreme. Therefore the way to consider the film art is as an installation.

All this rambling about film art leads up to the film du jour: “Meshes of the Afternoon” by Maya Deren. This is film art of almost epic scale. As I understand it Maya Deren was to film art what Any Warhol was to pop art. Hugely influential. I cannot say if this is really the case as in all my ignorance I actually never heard of her before, but when I watch her pieces (there are 6 on the DVD I got) I realize how much of later film art points back to this artist and “Meshes of the Afternoon” in particular. David Lynch is a good example. I would claim that he could not have made “Mulholland Drive” if “Meshes of the Afternoon” had not come before. Yet Deren did not invent this branch of film art single handedly. Certainly I see Bunuel standing in the background, not as a chaotic, giggling surrealist, but in the way the film media can be used to tell a story using symbols instead of words.

The first impression of “Meshes…” is that it is rather pretentious in its absurdity. I am reminded of “Ghost world” where the art teacher Roberta presents a similar work called “Mirror, Father, Mirror”. In fact I feel confident that “Mirror, Father, Mirror” was modeled on “Meshes…”. Even Roberta looks like Maya Deren! I think that is really funny.

Yet very soon “Meshes” reveals a lot more content. This is not pointless at all. I will not claim I understand it all and I will also admit that I learned a bit from reading about the film in The Book, yet I  will hazard an attempt at explaining it or at least what I got out of it.

First of all our protagonist falls asleep in her armchair. That tells us that most of what is going on is happening in her sleep or at least on a subconscious level. We are witnesses to the mental reflections of this woman.

Secondly we have a number of objects that seem to carry a meaning.

There is a flower. I take it to mean happiness. She finds it outside and takes it into the house. A stranger takes it away, and the woman loses it. A man (her husband) brings it to her and places it on her bed.

There is a window. The inside versus the outside. She stands by the window and looks longingly out. But she is also falling or at least leaning out the window as if she is being swallowed by the abyss. A life that drowns her?

Then there is a key and a knife. They replace each other so it seems that the key is the knife and the knife is the key. She can unlock whatever she is caught in with the knife. The knife is also in the bed instead of the flower and when she uses the knife on the man she is breaking a window and looks at the sea. Freedom?

So she must kill her husband or whatever keeps her tied to her prison? Yet, she is also looking at a mirror and multiple parts of herself, as if it is not really her husband that keeps her prisoner but herself. Her rebellious self, wearing cool shades takes action and kills her passive self, which is ultimately fatal and her husband finds her dead.

There is a lot more meaning to be found in the story: the unhooked phone, the stairs, the key coming out of her mouth and much more. I am sure it all means something and that is the wonderful thing about this stuff that I keep finding messages in seemingly pointless elements.

But basically this is a story about a woman caught in the prison of domestic life. Her subconscious reflections over her situation leads her in the end to kill herself.

Much much earlier on the List we found the film “La Souriante Madame Beudet”, that claimed a similar message. But where Madame Beudet failed completely on me I am totally buying into “Meshes of the Afternoon”. It works. I sense her frustration, her lost dreams and her radical resolution and it carries an impact not lessened by the dramatic Japanese soundtrack.

I feel quite certain that a more expert viewer and critic would be able to point out a few (or many) mistakes in my analysis and I certainly will not claim my reading to be ultimate truth, but that is the wonderful thing with art that we can project anything we want into it and it is still right and fine. And if I feel like laughing at the wildly surrealist pictures then that is also okay.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Captains Courageous (1937)

Havets Helte
According to The Book “Captains Courageous” is a children’s movie. I am not sure I agree with that. If I was a young boy I would probably be traumatized and very frightened from this movie. This is not easy stuff, but maybe children of the thirties were made of different material and not so squeamish about people dying and hard work on a boat on the North Atlantic.

As an adult film about children however this is an excellent film. It is gripping and heartbreaking and very well made.

Fundamentally this is a rite of passage story. The boy Harvey (Freddie Bartholomew) starts out as a spoiled brat with a single, but very wealthy, father who instead being a father for his son assumes that he can buy an upbringing. Without a father figure, but with all the power money can buy Harvey has become a real pain in the ass. He is selfish, manipulative, narcissistic and vengeful. Just about as bad as a child can get.

The turnaround comes when Harvey fall overboard from the cruise ship he was riding with his father and is picked up by a fisherman called Manuel (Spencer Tracy ). Manuel is part of Captain Disko Troop’s ( Lionel Barrymore) crew on the schooner “We’re Here” and this is a very different world from the one Harvey is used to. On the schooner Harvey’s money (that he claims he has) is worth nothing and he cannot manipulate, cheat or bully anybody around. Instead he learns that these hard men have an integrity Harvey never had but is longing for and Manuel becomes the father figure Harvey was lacking. Harvey wants to be like them, he wants Manuel to be proud of him and to do so he must become a man of integrity as well.

I am not a fan of child actors in old films. They are usually really really annoying. If you do not know what I talk about go see “Babes in Arms”. In the opening sequences “Captains Courageous” looks like another film ruined by the poor acting of the child, but actually that is just Harvey being immensely full of himself and trying to prove to just about everybody how big and important he is. In fact Freddie Bartholomew is one of the better child actors I have encountered and the proof is the turn-around he accomplishes. Freddie Bartholomew manages both to be a certified pain and an endearing young man of integrity.

But this is also very much Spencer Tracy’s film. In an age where some make-up and a fake accent was enough to proclaim an actor foreign Spencer Tracy is quite convincing as the Portuguese fisherman Manuel.  He is a hardened fisher and a brawler but also a poet and fundamentally a good man with tons of integrity. It is difficult not to love him and when he falls down with the mast my heart reach out for him as if I was Harvey. Spencer Tracy won an Oscar as Best Actor for the effort and it was fully deserved.

Another lead would be the boat itself and the filming of it. Those pictures are just magnificent! Tall ships make the heart leap and seeing the schooner breaking through the waves and leaning over is such a beautiful sight. It makes a landlubber like me want to become a sailor as well.  When I was a child I had a friend whose father was a ships carpenter with specialty in wooden ships. I spent many hours of my childhood playing on the wharf and workshop smelling the tar and wood. Though I never became a sailor I still love those boats.

If there is one unnecessary element to the film (though important to the story) it is the pointless race for port. The rivalry of Captain Troop with Captain Cushman I suppose lends flavor to the story, but the sea is dangerous enough without risking the lives of seamen in pointless races.  There, I said it. It angered me because I genuinely liked Lionel Barrymore’s Captain Disko Troop.

On the ship we also find a very young Mickey Rooney as Captain Troop’s son. It is a small part and mainly serves as an example of how life could be with a father around that you worked with and for and could idolize.

A very difficult moment of the film is the end when Harvey and his father are reunited. How do you reconnect in that situation? Harvey is changed and his father wants to make up for lost time. This is not easy and I am not sure how I would do it. The dilemma of any father is how to be a good father for your son. He tries to understand, he really tries, but on some level he has already lost. In Harvey’s heart Manuel is now his real father figure.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942

Yankee Doodle Dandy
James Cagney was typecast as a gangster. What a shame. In my opinion he was a brilliant singer and dancer and could easily compete with even Fred Astaire, certainly when you add his acting skill, which easily surpasses Astaire’s. We saw a glimpse of this in Footlight Parade, but not until I saw “Yankee Doodle Dandy” did I get the full impact of Cagney’s talents. Instead of a gangster we get a showbiz man as there ever was one, with a certain roguishness yes, but also deeply sympathetic and with a smile and glint in the eyes so different from all the hardboiled gangster types he had been playing over the years.

James Cagney is George M Cohan, the man who owned Broadway and who was the first to receive the Congressional Gold Medal of his profession. The film is a portrait of his life and career, not so much as a drama but a homage to his contribution to his country specifically and showbiz in general. Because it is so linked to his life it breaks a number of dramatic rules, but I am only happy that it does as it makes the film much more interesting and frankly I am relieved that I do not have to watch another movie about some highly successful professional who gets where he is at high personal costs. Instead it pleases me endlessly that Cohan is able to juggle everything and gets great support from wife, family and friends, whose help is fully appreciated by Cohan.

What the film may lack in drama we get double up in music and dancing and an engrossing portrait of this very colorful man. Since this is all about Cohan we get to see a lot of James Cagney and he carries the film beautifully. The dancing is breathtaking and I am not particularly fond of dancing. We get a wonderful scene shortly into the film where Mary (Joan Leslie), Cohan’s future wife seeks out Cohan in his changing room and presents herself to him. She is shy and very self-conscious talking to what she believes is an old man with beard and wrinkles and feeble voice. Cohan pulls a prank on her and let her believe he is that old man so that when he demonstrates what real dancing is she is almost getting a heart attack. That is so hilariously funny seeing this apparently old stoopy man dance his shoes off.

The music is extremely catchy. Since I saw it I have been having the theme song constantly on my mind and find myself humming “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy…” and it is not alone. “Send my regards to Broadway” and “Over there” are big crowdpleasers and they are just a few of the songs the film serves us. Cohan was famous for his songs and I can confirm his skill. I knew none of his songs going into this film, but a single viewing later I feel very familiar with them. The songs are that strong.

A detail I love about this film is how the songs are presented. They slip seamlessly into the story and feel perfectly natural. We never get a character that breaks spontaneously into singing, it all has a purpose. The musical movie about setting up musicals is a classic and frankly overused theme and in the Busby Berkeley tradition the stage performance transmute into something you could never show on a theater stage. Not so in “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. As a viewer you are there in the theater watching the performance. It is a brilliant show, but it does not take us beyond the stage and so the realism and thus the impact is intact. The focus is also somewhat different. Yes, this is about putting up shows, but it is first of all the story of the man who put up these shows. How he does it and why and so the shows become more of an explanation than the result itself. Cohan expresses himself through his shows, this is what he does so to explain the man we must see him perform.

There is a massive amount of flag waving in “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, but somehow it does not bother me as much as these things normally do. Partly because of the context of the film. It was produced at the height of WWII and in such situations it is only natural to throw in a hefty dose of nationalism. But mostly it is because the patriotism is very much a part of the Cohan character. His production uses national symbols as a common theme and it is pretty clear it is very close to his heart. The film even hints at this being a bit over the top. It is not to everyone’s taste and the Fay Templeton character is a good example of this sentiment. His success is also very much a function of the strength of the national feelings in general as they blooms and wanes when America goes to war or in peacetime. It is that description of a patriotic man rather than a patriotism aimed at the viewer that makes the flag waving slide down. The end result is probably also more effective that way and definitely this movie was a strong bid to support the war effort in 1942.

Around Cagney is a strong cast of primarily Cohan’s family. Walter Huston as Cohan senior is very convincing and is as usual very good as I have come to expect from him. The only let down of the film is Douglas Croft as Cohan, the boy. He is a total pain in the ass as a character, but more so as an actor. Child actors of this era just do not do very well in general.

“Yankee Doodle Dandy” is a good time and an interesting story that carries its years well. It is an excellent showcase for James Cagney and this very American musical was made by a Hungarian (Curtiz).

Sunday 12 May 2013

The Thin Man (1934)

Den Tynde Mand
Already I have read so many reviews of ”The Thin Man” that I think everything has been said about it. It is also a movie which is widely loved so there is a lot of hype to deal with going into this movie. Fortunately I saw it once before in January last year so I am not going in blank. However that was during a very difficult period for me personally so a movie which is all about good spirits (!) might not have been done justice at the time.

Now the time have come to see it again for my official comments here on the blog and… I did enjoy it very much.

It is a very simple concept executed brilliantly, which is often the recipe for the best things in life.

Basically the producer (and director I suppose) has taken two stories and cooked them together.

The most apparent story is a murder mystery, a regular whodunit plot, with the exception that all involved are absolutely nuts and have somehow been taken with their finger deep down in the cookie box.

The second story is that between Mr. and Mrs Charles, Nick and Nora (William Powell and Myrna Loy). This is not the regular description of a relationship but a veritable party. The jibes, jokes, pokes and puns those two fire off at each other and everyone around them are just amazing, and all the while they are permanently tipsy from conspicuous consumption of cocktails and highballs. This to an extend to relegate the murder mystery to a backdrop to the party and give opportunities to fire off some especially witty wisecracks.

In fact the Powell – Loy duo was such a success that an entire series of films were build up around these two characters and the concept was attempted copied on numerous occasions to this day. Think detective couple and party and the film or series will hark back to Powell and Loy.

This is a happy film. The tone is very easy and Powell and Loy are in such a good mood that it is difficult not to be smitten by them. In fact you get very thirsty from watching this film so I would suggest arming yourself with a bottle of champagne or even better a dry martini mixer set. All this despite no less than 3 people are getting murdered. They may be ghastly murders but since everybody are nutcases with very long fingers it is only surprising that no more are killed. They are certainly all capable of it.

I must admit that I got a bit lost in the murder mystery. There are so many people involved and they are all related to each other in strange ways. Yeah, I know who did it, it is revealed in the end, but I am not sure if I understand how or why. Well, it is not really so important. The point is that all these jackasses get busted in the most wonderful way as guests at Mr. and Mrs. Charles party.

Following Loy and Powell is a real joy. Every time they open their mouth it is funny. They care for each other, that is obvious, and that to an extend that they can tease each other silly and both enjoy it. I will not attempt at quoting them, that just turns out flat. You have to watch their smiles and the glint in their eyes when they deliver their jab to do them justice. It is top class.

So how can this jolly couple solve murder mysteries with one hand on the back and the other holding a cocktail? Well, they get a lot of help from the magic hunch that make them go to the right places and look for the right things. Gentlemanly and easy, no worries there. Certainly not enough trouble to ruin the party. How frustrating it must be for the police to see these two party revelers solve the cases they are working so hard on, but even they must bend to the Charles’s charms.

I enjoyed myself throughout. This is intelligent comedy but also happy and silly comedy. It is a party to watch, but I would have to warn you: Do not do this at home. Any ordinary metabolism would render you seriously hangovered if you tried to emulates Mr. and Mrs. Charles and your liver would not last long, but at least it was fun trying.

If you have not seen “The Thin Man” I have just one question: What are you waiting for? Bring out the ice box, the mixer and the booze and bring on the party.


Wednesday 8 May 2013

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

Familien Amberson
There is a lot of controversy around ”The Magnificent Ambersons”. The case in a nutshell is that Orson Welles lost control over the film and the end product is quite different from what he intended. According to the extra material on the DVD I saw it was a combination of Orson Welles being off to Brazil to do a new film on orders from the studio before  ”The Magnificent Ambersons” was finished and the studio panicking when two test screenings indicated that the film would tank at the box office.

Whatever the reason the film is what it is and I can only comment on the dish before me and not what the chef intended.

Giving a director free hands is chancy at best, especially when the director has an ego to match his skills. You may get a master piece or you may get a disaster and ”The Magnificent Ambersons” is a bit of both.

The storyline is pretty unique even if it is based on an actual novel and not Welles own work. As far as I read the plot this is about a horrible young man who gets what he deserves. Not so unusual you might say, but try make him the lead, the character we would normally root for. What a strange feeling that is, trying to root for a person you are meant to dislike and who really get his comeuppance. Quite schizophrenic really. George Amberson (Tim Holt as adult, Bobby Cooper as a child) is obnoxious in every way. We see where it comes from, rich family, a weak father, a doting mother and the child is spoiled rotten. He honestly believes he is better than just about anybody else because it is his birthright and his life mission is basically to be a professional playboy, whose job is to be rich and arrogant. Already there we are totally losing it for him even though to his defense he is not entirely to blame for his delusion. Certainly the class he grows up in actively supports this attitude. George crime is that he takes this to the extreme.

The bubble George lives him effectively protects him from all the annoying pressures of life and reality. When it does not conform to his wishes he is offended and denies it and so when he falls he falls deep.

Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotton) is the entirely opposite character. Honest and industrious he lives in the real world and he knows what he is and what he is not. When he courts Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello) he is refused because of a whim so typical of the Amberson clan and instead Isabel marries the anonymous Wilbur Minafer, whom we hardly see. When Wilbur dies Isabel and Eugene resumes their courtship with the added bonus that Eugene has a lovely daughter that George sets his eyes on. Considering the hardships the Amberson clan has fallen into with poor business dispositions it would sound like the super solution with a double marriage to the now successful industrialist Morgan family, but this is not how George sees it. In his deluded world the Morgans are upstarts, producing the horrible nuisance, the automobile and courting his mother makes Eugene cause the worst of crimes: People will talk of indecency!!! That this talk is mostly in George own mind and is instilled by his vengeful aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead) does not get through to him before it is too late (well, likely not ever) and so he sabotages their relationship. He loses Lucy (Anne Baxter) who sees him for what he is and his mother dies before she can get united with Eugene. Without the support of the Morgan family Fanny and George are broke and he must submit to actual work, oh horror.

Besides being a story about a guy who gets what is coming his way it is also an Oedipus story about a son who sees a rival in her mother’s lover. At least this is where the movie seems to be going. To me that theme is just subordinate the trashing of this arrogant bastard and so I sit back and enjoy that the bubble burst around him after having cursed him loudly for all the insidious things he is doing to people who actually care for him.

The filming is very elegant with nice touches. We get the from-below shots we know so well from Citizen Kane that makes people look larger than life and get passages with the camera moving around with the characters while the microphone catches conversations in passing. It is really like being there and very convincing.

The opening is also very interesting with the life of the wealthy class described through a tour of the vain and ultimately shallow menswear fashion of the past century. What an excellent way to demonstrate the shallowness of their lifestyle.

So, where is the disaster then?

In two ways:

1.       Ultimately a film about disliking the lead just does not really work. There is no real satisfaction to his comeuppance, it is just sad. For him and all the people who suffered because of him. Frankly I think Orson Welles just disliked this sort of people and this was his blow to them. Good for him, it does not really work for most of the rest of us.

2.       The weird ending. We are lead to believe that George actually comes around, makes a life for himself and through an accident he gets reattached to the Morgan family and particularly Lucy. Where on Earth did that come from? It sabotages the entire meaning of the film. The answer of course is that this was the studio’s attempt to solve the problem above. Unfortunately it did more harm than good.

So where do I stand in the end? A bit bewildered. I like a lot of the elements in the film. I love that Orson Welles tried something new. I just never connected to the story or the characters. Not a top mark in my book.


Saturday 4 May 2013

It Happened One Night (1934)

Det Hændte En Nat
”It Happened One Night”: The mother of all romantic comedies.

It is not common that romantic comedies clean the table at the Oscars and bring home the five big ones. These days romantic comedies are the pulp of Hollywood, formulaic and trivial and obviously made for the money they generate.  The thirties were not much different, so what makes ”It Happened One Night” so special?

It is tempting to say Frank Capra, he did make a number of very successful films throughout the decade, though not with the same success at the academy awards. More likely it was the chemistry between Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, the two leads of the film. But the truth is probably just that it was one of those cases were everything just worked out. It was also the right movie at the right time, an uplifting story about the rich and the poor in the same boat, broke but determined in 1934 while the depression was still ravaging the world.

You cannot talk about ”It Happened One Night” without talking a lot about Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. From beginning to end it is these two who drive the film forward. It lives and dies with them and it lives very well indeed. I cannot help seeing Rhett Butler in Clark Gable. Maybe because there is something of an overlap in characters. Peter Warne is also an upright man with a crooked smile and a glint of mischief in his eyes. He is toying with Ellie just as he is also taking care of her, keeping her out of trouble, much like Rhett Butler does to Scarlett. The combination of decent and caring on the one hand and mischievous and naughty on the other is always a winner in romantic comedies and Peter Warne is all that.

Claudette Colbert is not my favorite actress. In fact this is the only part where I actually liked her. Normally she grates on me. There is an arrogance and condescending attitude about her (and frankly she is not that pretty when compared to the other divas of Hollywood). However this is exactly the sort of character she has to play in “It Happened One Night”: A spoiled upper class brat who ran away from her father to sulk. I do not know if it is Gable’s work or Capra, but they managed to get a playfulness out of her here that enables the chemistry with Gable. Throughout the two of them play at each other, caring or taunting, playing along or fighting and it works.

The backstage story is that Capra and Colbert did not get along at all, that Colbert actually hated everything about the movie and had planned to stay away for the Oscars. Curious how none of that transplanted itself to the screen.

A theme of the film is that of a rich girl coming out of her ivory tower to see real life and real people. In the process she learns a few things about herself and finds love in a place she did not expect to find it. From the viewpoint of the broad public slowly climbing out of depression Peter Warne is their man. He is hardened by life, know how to get by in a crunch and a bit of a rogue but he is also sympathetic and decent and certainly a person you would want to root for. To see him deal with Ellie must have felt good. The common person would feel vindicated.

Ellie’s transformation also means that you get sympathetic toward her as well. Whereas it feels good and well deserved that Peter calls her a brat in the beginning we gradually gain respect for her. When the sulkiness wears off and she needs to step in character she does perform, like in the scene in the cabin when they have to fool the detectives or when they are trying to hitchhike. That realization of who she really is and that what she want is something else and different from just opposing her father is what makes her grow up and become a worthy match for Peter.

A comedy needs some good comedic elements and a character sure to provide it is Mr. Shapeley (Roscoe Karns). He is just perfectly annoying and the way he is dealt with by Peter is wonderful. I love Gable’s gangster imitation and had to laugh out load. Excellent.

The finale of the film is classic. I do not know if this is the film who invented the scene, but certainly this has been repeated so many times that I honestly believe that the most dangerous moment in any marriage must be at the altar when the priest asks if anybody objects. Almost Peter and Ellie are missing out on each other due to some silly misunderstandings and just in the final second they make it. This is sooooo cliché that I almost wished that they went through with the wedding and only then found out what a terrible mistake they had made. But of course then it would not have been a romantic comedy and I do believe that this was not entirely as cliché at the time. As these things go it did go well enough with me.

All in all this romantic comedy is lightyears ahead of its modern mass produced counterparts and highly enjoyable. It does not feel dated at all and is one of the top picks of the thirties.