Archive for the ‘Kay Francis’ Category

In Name Only

06 Oct

In Name Only – directed by John Cromwell. Romantic Drama. 94 minutes Black And White 1939.
The Story: Out fishing, a young woman finds herself attracted to a handsome man on a horse, but he’s married and his wife would rather kill him than release him.
Carole Lombard tended not to make “serious” films. She felt a responsibility to her studios to make money for them, and her comedies were perennial hits. She made George Stevens’ “Vigil In The Night” to get an Oscar and she’s darned good in it but she wasn’t even nominated. So you might think that a film with this title, particularly one with Cary Grant, would be a 30s comedy, but it aint.

It’s a serious romantic drama, and well worth seeing because everyone is good in it. Grant is an actor seamlessly adaptable to any genre. He is so victorious in tuxedo comedy that one supposes this film might turn into one, but it never does.

Kay Francis plays the calculating wife, and, in its way, she is the most interesting character – or almost. For what motivates a human being to trick someone she does not love into marriage and then clutch it to her forever? I don’t mean the outer motivations of money and place, I mean the inner motivation, the inner human contraption. Only an actor could truly display such a thing, and Kay Francis reveals glimpses of it.

But of course, Carole Lombard and Cary Grant have the focus of our hearts. And Grant is at his handsomest – although, oddly, his sports clothes are of the wrong material. Why is that? Was this before he brought his own clothes to his roles?

Lombard’s misery at being his mistress is completely convincing, as is the sexual energy between them. Lombard was an actor of clearly defined decisions. She always knew how to tell her story clearly, using a single small detail. The audiences of her day appreciated her for this.

She has that wonderful female quality of the comediennes of her era – and all of them had it – Rosalind Russell, Claudette Colbert, Ginger Rogers, Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy – they were game. They were up for some fun. They were game dames. Women who were ready to take a chance. To throw themselves into it – whatever it was. It’s not a quality you find in modern film comediennes, good as some of them are.


When The Daltons Rode

30 Mar

When The Daltons Rode – Directed by George Marshall. Comedy Western. Will our hero remain faithful to his friends, the wronged Dalton boys, or will he not?  81 minutes Black and White 1940

* * * * *

And rode and rode and rode.  This is one of George Marshall’s comedy/romance/westerns, a genre at which he was a master. Destry Rides Again and Texas are two notable examples of his craft and sense of fun. Here the fun is supplied by the jalopy-voiced Edgar Buchanan once again and the heaviness once again by George Bancroft. The inestimable castrati-voiced Andy Devine gives us a wonderful town silly to whom all the females in the movie are drawn. He himself is stretched between his love of food, his love of the Dalton boys, and his love of these giggling females. Marshall’s style is in full play here: during a daring escape from a lunch counter, Brian Donlevy steals a pie, and during the ensuing daring stage-coach chase, he gives it to Andy Devine, the driver, to eat, but after one bite, it is shaken from Devine’s hand, and he nearly goes overboard after it. Marshall had a genius for comic set-ups; it is one of his most endearing gifts. But watch how brilliantly he stages crowds in violent motion, and groups in mayhem. The stars are bashed around like mad. The gunfights and chases are remarkable for their conviction. Also take in, if you like, the range of stunts performed here. The gang actually does jump from a cliff onto the top of a moving train. No joke, that. Randolph Scott is the lead as a man caught up in the bandit gang, as he also is in The Stranger Wore A Gun. He exhibits a fine sense of humor, just right for Marshall’s shenanigans and set in perfect balance by the script, which, as is usual in Marshall films, is better than you might expect. It gives forceful and realistic love scenes for him to play with the elegant Kay Francis, who herself is a game gal in a dustup. Mary Gordon does the minute Irish mom of the Dalton boys to a T. The picture has brilliant passages of horses in motion, and color does not interfere here with the beautiful spectacle of black and white photography. Marshall’s cast is deep on talent: Broderick Crawford is super as Kay Francis’s love interest and pal of Scott. This is a film the whole family can watch together with pleasure.



Charley’s Aunt

21 Feb

Charley’s Aunt –– directed by Archie Mayo –– an 1892 comedy in which two Oxonians inveigle a pal to impersonate their aunt as chaperone for a visit from their girlfriends. 80 minutes black and white 1941.

* * * * *

Randy Skretvedt on the Special Features gives a nifty rundown of the lives and careers of every single person in the cast and crew. From this we learn oodles about Jack Benny, Kay Francis, Edmund Gwenn (whose deathbed words were, “Comedy is hardest”), Anne Baxter, Reginald Owen, Alfred Newman who did the music, Archie Mayo who directed it, and George Seaton who brilliantly adapted it for the screen. We are give such tidbit-info as that Laird Cregar was 24 when he played Sir Francis Chesney, the father of one of the 30 year old Oxonians. Cregar came on the set and announced to one and all, “To dispel any question about my preferences, yes, I am homosexual!” This in 1941; pretty good wouldn’t you say? I once played the part and I wish I had thought of his business with the cane. Watch for it. The play is unfailingly funny. It is the most popular English comedy ever written, and justly so. Jack Benny skedaddles around as the aunt, and his performance is on the level of Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire or Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie; that is to say nobody would be convinced that this is a female for one instant –– which in this case, unlike theirs, is part of the fun, since here everyone’s life depends on being convinced of it. Mayo’s direction is tip-top as he keeps things moving from brisk scene to scene, and Peverell Marly has filmed it exactly right to glamorize the women and deglamorize the men. Among the Special Features is a promotional short worth seeing, with Tyrone Power, just brilliant, coming on to have lunch with Benny, joined by a highly energized Randolph Scott (two of the most notable bisexual actors of  film). We’ve all seen Charley’s Aunt in the theatre, and we can now see it over again in our parlour, and over and over again. Good family fun, I should say, wot?


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