Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Public Hero # 1 (1935)

“21 days and all of them nights.”

            In the 1930s America was fascinated by gangsters. The bad men criss crossing the country causing trouble provided Americans with as much entertainment as a movie did. Realizing how popular gangsters were the film industry quickly jumped on the subject. For much of the early 1930s the film studios turned out gangster films left and right. Of several gangster films MGM released was Public Hero #1.
            Jeff Crane (Chester Morris) is put in jail for robbing a beer brewery. He shouts promises at the prison guards that he will get out. Jeff causes all kinds of trouble. After starting a riot in the mess hall he is thrown into a solitary cell for twenty-one days. When he gets out of solitary, Jeff tells his cellmate Sonny (Joseph Calleia) that he plans on getting out by using guns which he says are the only things keeping him inside. Jeff tells Sonny he has people on the outside that can help. He sneaks a note out. His men will come at the next prison board meeting. One of Sonny’s men comes with. One of Jeff’s men comes with a truck to drop off scrap metal. Sonny pretends to knock a barrel down as a distraction. Jeff pretends to help pick up the scarp and he gets down under the truck to assemble a gun. Jeff and Sonny hold up a guard and the two of them go up to the board members. They get some clothes get out of the prison in a car. There is a shoot out on the road and Sonny is shot. Jeff and Sonny are wanted all over the United States.
            Jeff goes to the Department of Justice’s office. He is an agent with the office. The entire break out with Sonny was orchestrated to get Sonny out so they can infiltrate and take down Sonny’s operation. The head of the department, Duff, tells Jeff to go to a doctor who can help fix up Sonny. On the way to get a doctor Jeff is going too fast in the rain. He sends a bus off the road. A woman named Theresa (Jean Arthur) gets him to take all the people on the bus to a hotel nearby. Jeff goes to get Doctor Josiah Glass (John Barrymore). The Doctor is drunk passed out in his bed. Jeff carries him out to the car. When they arrive back at the hotel the Doctor puts his equipment up on the bar for collateral planning to drink the night away. Theresa sees them and goes up to them. Through some embarrassment she gets Jeff to take her out to dinner.
            That night when the storm clears Jeff and the Doctor leave the hotel but another storm comes along. Jeff tries to drive over a bridge but it collapses. Theresa pops out of the car having snuck in it when before Jeff left. They find a house to stay at. Jeff and Theresa flirt. As she rummages in her suitcase Jeff sees she has a photograph of Sonny. She tells him Sonny is her brother. Eventually Theresa figures out that Jeff and Sonny are the convicts from the paper.
            Jeff has seen Sonny again. After seeing Sonny he goes to Duff’s office to tell him about a robbery Sonny is planning on committing. Jeff asks Duff to take care of Theresa if anything should happen to him, he says she is a good girl she is only trying to reform her brother. Jeff does not want Theresa to go to jail. Something happens where Jeff was not with Sonny when the robbery was committed. Duff throws Jeff of the case.
            Jeff goes to see the Doctor. He tells the drunkard that they have to get out of town. Jeff pretends to pass out on the wheel as they are driving away so the Doctor can take over. The Doctor takes Jeff to a garage. The garage is Sonny’s gang’s hide out. Jeff knew the Doctor was in with Sonny and calls Duff. The Feds and Jeff have a shoot out with Sonny’s gang. In the commotion Sonny manages to get away.
            Duff believes that Theresa is laundering money to Sonny and has her come in. He wants Jeff to question her. Theresa tells both men she has no idea where her brother is. She is very mad at Jeff for what he did. Jeff and Duff come up with the idea to get Sonny to come out into the open. They know he needs money so they place an ad in the paper as if it was Theresa asking him to come to the theater where she works. Sonny comes. They plan to go into the theater when Theresa leaves her booth. Unfortunately Theresa comes back and sits in a diner near the entrance to the theater and she sees Duff and Jeff. She goes into the theater to try to warn her brother. Sonny runs away and Jeff chases him. Sonny shoots Jeff but the agent shoots the gangster dead.
            To end this story Theresa leaves New York to return home and Jeff follows her.
            The cast was pretty good. Jean Arthur is always wonderful to see in films. I felt she was wasted though. Arthur was used as a love angle to for the main character. Well, she was the gangster’s sister but mostly she was a love interest for Chester Morris foremost. What a waste of her talents. I will say as usual she was ridiculously adorable though. Chester Morris was awesome. I loved his roughness at the beginning of the film when he was in jail. I know I have seen him in films before this but I really took notice of him here… probably due to the fact that he was the main character he was not thrown in the background. Lionel Barrymore gets top billing but he is barely in it… I feel like I write that a lot about him. He is barely in some films I have watched him lately and he gets top billing. Unfair to the other actors I say.

            Public Hero #1 is a good film. The story is nothing to really brag about. It is not terrible but it is not a stand out film I would say for everyone to watch. I only suggest watching Public Hero #1 if you are a fan of Jean Arthur or Chester Morris or Lionel Barrymore.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Silent Sundays: "It" (1927)

“ ‘IT’ is that peculiar quality which attracts others of the opposite sex. The possessor of ‘IT’ must be absolutely, un-selfconcious and must have that magnetic ‘sex appeal’ which is irresistible.”

            When an actress today is called an “It girl” we do not think anything of it. We know the actress is currently popular and usually is pretty. But have you ever wondered where the term “It” to describe a woman or even a man originated from? Apparently it originated in the mid-1920s from a novel by Elinor Glyn called IT then it was turned into one of Clara Bow’s most famous films with the same title and at the time was deemed the first “IT Girl”.
            Cyrus Waltham has just taken over his family’s successful department store. On the first day of Cyrus’s take over his friend Montgomery comes into his office with a large bouquet of flowers that says “Good Luck” across it. Montgomery sees that his friend has a book entitled IT and takes a look at the book. The author explains that when someone has “IT” they have a certain appeal to them that cannot simply be explained. Before the end of the day Cyrus goes down to the department floor. Betty Lou Spence (Bow) is one of the sale girls in the area where Cyrus is walking. All the girls, including Betty, think their boss is handsome. Montgomery is busy looking for a girl who has “IT” and he comes across Betty. He cannot believe his eyes when he takes a look at her. He tries to get Cyrus to take notice of Betty but the boss is too busy.
            On the way out of the store Betty sees Cyrus. She pretends to have bumped into to get him to notice her but her plan does not work. Outside the store Montgomery asks Betty if he can take her home in his car. She convinces him to take her “car” which is actually the city bus. When they arrive at her apartment building Montgomery asks Betty out to dinner. She remembers hearing that Cyrus would be at the Ritz and has Montgomery take her there. He agrees to pick her up later. Betty lives in an apartment with her friend Molly who used to work at the store and Molly’s baby. Molly cannot go back to work yet under doctor’s orders and she is worried about Betty taking care of her and the baby. Betty does not mind. That night Molly helps Betty refurbish her work dress into an evening dress to go out to dinner with Montgomery.
            Betty has the waiter at the Ritz move them to a table close to Cyrus. Eventually her plan works and Cyrus takes notice of her. He even comments to his date that he finds Montgomery’s date attractive. Betty asks Montgomery who Cyrus is with and he tells her the woman is Adela and that Cyrus will most likely marry her. Montgomery introduces Betty to Cyrus. She tells Cyrus that if they meet again he will probably not recognize her.
            The following day Betty is sent up to see Cyrus after a customer complained about her. Cyrus does not even realize who she is just like she said he would not. When he does recognize her he is happy to see her. Cyrus cancels his dinner plans with Adela to out with Betty. She has him take her to the boardwalk. They have a great time together. Cyrus takes Betty home and he tries to kiss her goodnight. She slaps him in the face saying he has misunderstood her she is not that kind of girl. Betty runs up to her apartment. Secretly she liked that Cyrus tried to kiss her.
            One day two women come to take Molly’s baby away because she is not right. Betty comes home just in time to see Molly hanging out the window with the baby in her arms. Betty is disgusted with the women. In order for the baby to stay Betty tells the two old biddies that the baby is hers. When they ask who the father is Betty tells them that is none of their business. Montgomery saw what was happening from the street along with a reporter. The two men come up. When everything calms down Montgomery asks Betty if the baby is really hers. The two women are still hanging around so she replies that of course the baby is hers. The women go to see Cyrus as part of their investigation. Cyrus backs Betty up. His attitude towards Betty changes. When he gives the salesgirls their bonuses personally he does not even look at Betty. She stays behind and talks/flirts with him. Cyrus looks disgusted you can see that he is thinking of how she can possibly flirt like nothing is wrong when she has a baby at home. He tells her he is crazy about her and wants to give her everything she wants. Betty thinks about his deal and then she realizes he said what he did because he thinks she is not a good woman.
            Betty quits her job. Montgomery comes over to say he forgives her. She tells him the baby is not really hers. He tells her he told Cyrus about the baby. Betty is upset with both Montgomery and with Cyrus. Cyrus more so because he did not give her the benefit of the doubt. Betty comes up with the idea to get Cyrus to propose to her and then she will laugh at him. Montgomery gets Betty onto Cyrus’s yacht. He nervously tells Cyrus and Adela that he has brought along a girl he met while he was in Paris. Cyrus is stunned and surprised to see Betty. Montgomery tells Cyrus the truth about Betty and the baby. Now Cyrus wants to marry her and he asks. She laughs at him and walks away. She tells Montgomery that she thought she would be happy but now she is just sad that she laughed at him.
            Montgomery takes over the yacht from Cyrus when Cyrus wants to go speak to Betty. Montgomery winds up crashing the yacht and throwing Betty and Adela overboard. Cyrus jumps in to save both women. Betty tells him she is swimming home. She swims up to the anchor and climbs on it. Cyrus finds her, climbs on the anchor, and the two of them kiss.

            I like It. I liked the story and Clara Bow’s character. I thought Betty was different because she stuck up for her friend and did so without even thinking about what might happen. I think I really liked how Molly had a baby and she was not even married (All I have to say to that is damn the Code when it was enforced in 1934!). Bow definitely fit the “IT” title. There was something to her that was definitely appealing. She was not that pretty but she had a great on screen presence and personality. I can see why she appealed to 1920s audiences. If you are a fan of classic films especially silent ones you cannot miss It. It is currently available to view in full on Youtube