1 November 2006 | bensonj
Not a Haines vehicle; an outstanding sentimental drama
Many of the William Haines films hew strictly to a comedy-romance formula, reusing the same plot and character. Haines forces his attentions on the girl in the most obnoxious way until she unaccountably falls in love with him, and his star performance in a sport is also so obnoxious the team kicks him out, until, after he's chastened, they take him back for the final game. Haines' lighthearted performance usually makes it more palatable than it sounds, but it's still a strict formula.
MEMORY LANE is not a Haines vehicle, but a simple romantic drama in which he is merely very well cast as one of three equally important players. It has some humorous moments but is not a comedy. Haines comes back to his home town to find that his old sweetheart Boardman is to marry Nagel the following day. In the evening, he calls to her window and she sneaks out to spend her last evening before marriage with him, walking the streets of the small town, passing some boys making harmony in the park were they used to spoon. On the wedding day, he hangs around outside the house where the wedding is taking place, and when the newlyweds come out, he accidentally finds himself driving their car. When Nagel notices and makes a scene, Haines pushes him aside and drives off with the bride in a raging rainstorm. He quickly comes to his senses, but then the car breaks down. In spite of the telephone wires literally lighting up in the small town, Nagel joyfully accepts his bride back with no recriminations, and they have a happy married life together. But several years later, Haines returns, and the decent Nagel invites him to dinner. What happens next is perhaps not unexpected, but is beautifully, subtly played by the three principals. This is a perfectly done sentimental romantic drama, straightforward, honest in its details, filled with small humorous touches, and with fine performances, especially from Boardman.
If you like the art of silent films, this is one to really search out. It's a special film, simple, surefooted, with not a false moment from start to finish.