Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Two Alone (1934)

Mazie (Jean Parker) lives in a world as bleak and unforgiving as a Grant Wood painting.  An orphan, she was adopted into a life of drudgery and servitude by a harsh farm family, headed by the deplorable Slag (Arthur Byron) and his shrewish wife (Beulah Bondi).  Their daughter, Corie (Nydia Westman, who you'll hear more about soon), doesn't seem to care for Mazie one way or another, only noticing her existence to laugh at her.

Somehow, despite the lack of love and affection, this little weed has grown into a wildflower; Mazie is beautiful, dreamy-eyed, and curious.  Her only friend on the farm is George Marshall (Willard Robertson), an older hired hand, and her heart is broken when he leaves -- though he does promise to come back and save her someday.

One day, Mazie stumbles across Adam (Tom Brown), a troubled young man on the run, and treats him with the first compassion he's ever known.  They recognize something in each other, these two castoffs, and before they know it they've formed a bond -- one they will desperately need to hang on to...

This movie touched me.  It's a soapy programmer, to be sure, and it starts a bit slow and rickety, but the performances are disarming.  Jean Parker imbues Mazie with an innocence that never devolves into dopeyness or gullibilty; both she and Tom Brown have such freshness, such vulnerability, that their love story never seems syrupy or overblown.   Arthur Byron plays one of the coldest, meanest characters in recent memory, and just when you think he might be softening...well, I don't want to give it away.  Charley Grapewin injects a bit of humor into the movie's darker moments with a small but pivotal role, and Zasu Pitts has a cameo as his long-suffering daughter.

Two Alone is a thinly-veiled Cinderella story, but it is also a very real and poignant tale of first love.  IMDb says it is also known as Wild Birds; it's worth seeing under any name.

I give this one:

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