Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Adults Only Double Feature! - The Pace That Kills (1935) / Assassin of Youth (1937)

The Pace That Kills aka Cocaine Fiends (1935)

Question for you:  if the person giving you "headache powders" insists they must be snorted to work, wouldn't that raise, I don't know, RED FLAGS?!

Lois January (whose claim to fame these days is as Dorothy's manicurist, turning her frown into a smile) plays Jane Bradford, a naive small-town girl lured into the downward spiral of cocaine by a smooth-talking man (Noel Madison); her big-city brother Eddie (Dean Benton) is suffering the same fate at the hands of a beautiful girl (Sheila Manners).  The picture gets weird, with a protracted nightclub scene featuring some dubious "talent":

Frank Collins, the Singing Waiter.  Surprisingly, this was his only film credit.

It all goes to hell in a handbasket at the end, with the nogoodniks getting their due and Jane sacrificing her future in order for Eddie to have one again.  There was one scene that made me sit up: a complete ripoff of Tallulah Bankhead's touching "leaving for the drugstore" from Faithless.  Nice attempt to lend a bit of pathos to the story, but it just didn't work.

Scorecard:  crime, drug use, violence, prostitution, sex, unwed pregnancy, suicide, bad nightclub acts

Six Degrees of Ten Nights in a Barroom:  Sheila Manners 

Assassin of Youth aka The Marihuana Menace aka Miss Gulch's Doppleganger (1937)

I was impressed by this one - it actually had a plot!  Not a feasible one, mind you, but it's the thought that counts.  Joan Barry (Luana Walters, who found work in mostly unbilled parts until she drank herself to death at age 50) plays a girl who must stay "good" in order to inherit her grandmother's fortune; she's faced at every turn by the dangers of her fast-living cohorts, namely Linda Clayton (Fay McKenzie), who is actively trying to knock Joan off her pedestal.  Why?  You'll have to watch the picture.  Undercover pedophile reporter Art Brighton strives to steer her out of their clutches before it's too late. 

The most fascinating part of the picture for me was discovering Fern Emmett.  How in the world can there be another person that looks, sounds, and laughs exactly like Margaret Hamilton?!  According to her page at Allmovie.com the resemblance was so close that even historians mistakenly lump their film credits together.  It didn't help that Ms Emmett spent quite a few scenes putting around on a scooter, reminiscent of another Wizard of Oz moment:

Mommy, please leave the light on...

Scorecard:  drug use, nudity, alcohol, violence, sex

Six Degrees of Ten Nights in a Barroom: Fern Emmett and Henry Roquemore, Emmett's real life husband

Monday, March 29, 2010

Billy Haines Musical

Billy and Cranberry celebrate.  But is it too soon?

There's a new musical off-Broadway combining the life of William Haines with the story of twentysomethings trying to find their way (and themselves) in New York.  I have no idea how much of Billy makes it into the actual play, but reviews so far are mixed.  I'd love to hear from anyone who has the chance to see it!

Looking for Billy Haines

Friday, March 26, 2010

Upperworld (1934)

I'd noticed this was on TCM and, not having seen many Warren William pictures, decided at the last minute to tape it.   Last night I sat down to watch it while I worked on Silent Stanzas, and wound up scribbling notes for my review:

"Ginger is effervescent!"
"Drooling over the art deco!"
"Shake your Powder Puff!"

It started off as a rather lighthearted movie, going in the direction of so many pre-Codes: man is married, wife is neglectful, man finds consolation elsewhere - but then it took a sharp dramatic turn.  Ginger Rogers is just right as Lily Linda, the "elsewhere" - bright and lovely but with that slightly hard edge.  I was rather underwhelmed by Mary Astor, who spent the majority of the picture all but ignoring her husband and begrudging her son Tommy (Dickie Moore) for basically being a child; by the big apology/come-around at the end, I was indifferent. 

Warren William, however...now I know why he has so many admirers.  Even in a paint-by-numbers drama such as this, he exhibits such subtle control over his emotions...they play across his face like shadows, barely there and then gone.  You feel each one as he does, and at the apex of the story, your heart aches for him - even though he's been less than virtuous. 

My final note:  "Andy Devine gives his girlfriend used lipsticks.  Ew."

I give this one: 


Mary who is not Mary,

I'm sorry they wouldn't let you
grow up.
Innocence forced is
innocence lost
and you suffered for it.

I hope wherever you are now
you have your butterfly wings
and hover close to your
"beautiful white flame",

Finally free to be

Mary Miles Minter

Thursday, March 25, 2010

You like me, you really like me!

Just got the word that both this blog and Silent Stanzas have been welcomed into the Classic Movie Blog Association!  Thanks to Rick and all the other members that voted for me. 

I'm also a member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs, so vote for me there as well!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Price She Paid

At first glance, she seems so dated,
a creaky relic, antiquated;
but underneath the verdigris
shines something for modernity.
A simple beauty, sparkling bright,
one whom in other eras might
have been passed over (what a shame!)
had, in the teens, the biggest name.
However, after such a start
she let others steer her art;
on and off-screen intertwined
and her career was left behind.
She claimed to have complete control
but to three men she lost her soul
and sadly, faded from the screen;
at only thirty, a has-been.
A lesson calls back through the ages:
Whether earning fame or wages,
make sure your contracts are your own
lest others reap what you have sown.

Clara Kimball Young

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Photoplay Online!

Thanks to Leonard Maltin's recent blog post, I've been able to wade through Photoplay and Moving Picture World online at Internet Archive.  It's just a taste of David Pierce's brilliant project, the Media History Digital Library.  Go have a look!

Media History Digital Archive

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Screen's Most Perfect Lover

men like you don't end this way;
broken, tired,
victim of the fight.

the pain was intense
but the cure ate you alive.

it stole your strength, your beauty,
and left you with nowhere to land
except your wife's arms.

you should have never been human wreckage.

Wallace Reid

Friday, March 5, 2010

Maid of Mystery

Though featured in the photoplays,
Her soul was on a different plane,
Marie, like Janus, looked two ways.
Though featured in the photoplays
Heavenward she fixed her gaze,
until no more for films remained.
Though featured in the photoplays,
Her soul was on a different plane.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Adults Only! - Ten Nights in a Barroom (1931)

Never judge a book by its cover. This film was included in my "exploitation" films box set, but was anything but a throwaway picture; decidely low-budget, it more than made up for it in honesty and heart.

Adapted from the extremely popular temperance play (which in turn was based on the successful 1854 book by Timothy Shay Arthur), William Farnum stars as Joe Morgan, a family man led to ruin by the lure of alcohol. He is pressed into addiction by the cruel and selfish bar owner Slade (Tom Santschi), who has designs on Morgan's business.

This is a bleak, no-holds-barred look at how addiction can destroy not only one's own life but that of those you care about most deeply. Farnum emotes in an old-fashioned, melodramatic style perfect for the source material, and Peggy Lou Lynd adds a very effective (if a little heavy-handed) touch as Mary, Morgan's sick daughter who is so starved for her father's affection that she walks, alone, through the dark to fetch him from the bar.

An interesting note: the protracted fight scene near the end was a nod to The Spoilers (1914), in which Farnum and Santschi both starred. Their fight scene in that film was considered (and still is, by some) the best and most realistic one ever committed to film; for years both actors served as fight consultants on later pictures.
Scorecard: alcohol, gambling