Archive for the ‘Jack Oakie’ Category

Tin Pan Alley

04 Jul

Tin Pan Alley – Directed by Walter Lang. Musical. An inconsiderate song plugger looses his mate who runs off to become a stage star with her sister. 94 minutes Black and White 1940.

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Alice Faye has the most seductive upper eyelids God ever thought of. She is sultry, easy, withdrawn, and has a magnificent bust. It is interesting to see her paired with Betty Grable who is the opposite. Grable is outgoing, open, eager, and everything is in perfect physical proportion. Actually, neither of these fine ladies is the focal character of this picture. That falls to John Payne, who it is difficult not to look at with wonder and amazement. For he is the most beautiful male imaginable. He first appears in the boxing ring dressed in so little that one can see what a strapping physique he had, broad shouldered, slim, and muscular. In this picture he remains clothed for most of it, and looks good in his suits, which work better than the Edwardian rigs worn by the ladies. (His face resembles that of Lee Pace.) Payne is about 27 years old here and at the peak of his masculinity. He has the perfect patined hair of the era. He has a sensual and flexible mouth, with dimples when he smiles. A wonderful nose. A beautifully shaped head. And so forth and so on, but the reason one cannot take one’s eyes off him is that all of this is backed up by a technique that is fluid, full of fun, and highly responsive. Watch him and Faye and Oakie sing a trio, to see what I mean. The show looks really well rehearsed, and that counts for a lot with this sort of backstage musical. Billy Gilbert sings the Sheik of Araby while the Nicholas Brothers do another of their stupendous dance routines. Jack Oakie in his pie-in-the-face style of acting brings the elan of the died-in-the-wool vaudevillian to the scene, and it’s most welcome in all its silliness. Boy, can he put over a bad song well! I have a strong fondness for Fox musicals. I like their color, and their emotional values, and I rejoice in Betty Grable, who was shortly to replace Alice Faye, to become the top box office movie star for 10 consecutive years. Gosh, was she engaging! There is a certain energetic vulgarity to Fox musicals that I appreciate, so different from RKO’s white telephone musicals and the family-value musicals at MGM. Anyhow this is a good example of the Fox genre. A good film to watch with the whole family.







The Texas Rangers

05 May

The Texas Rangers – Directed by King Vidor. Western Comedy/Drama. Two inept bandits join up only to find themselves assigned to take down an old buddy. 98 minutes Black and White 1936.

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Vidor also wrote and produced it, thank goodness, for otherwise it would have been a routine oater. What he achieved instead was almost a satire of a routine oater, achieved it by casting that old sly-boots Fred MacMurray, aged 28, and Jack Oakie as the two inept drifter-hold-up men. The result is that Oakie is allowed to make every scene he is in funny, and MacMurray plays the straight man, which, goodness known, he was. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis might have done a remake with not much changed. Oakie is in virtually every scene and transforms all he touches. He plays The Braggart Soldier and MacMurray the dedicated virgin. The dialogue is not written for comedy, but Vidor directs it for comedy, including the proposal scene with Jean Parker as the girl who can’t keep her hands off him, and the travesty trial scene with George “Gabby” Hayes as the drunken toothless judge. As soon as force of circumstances separate Oakie and MacMurray, the film becomes a full swing action Western, with Lloyd Nolan, in a quite smart performance as the old crony they try to track down. The film falls into the tradition of the comic western, a bastard genre which George Marshall had had hand in, in Destry Rides Again. Little Big Man is a version of it, so, perhaps, is Josey Wales. Check it out.


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