28 February 2002 | tashman
True to Clara
I saw a pristine print of this at Bay City, and was so blown away by Clara Bow that I just had to find a copy for myself. There was only one thing standing in my way, no one had one. What we saw in Bay City was the rare silent version released to houses not yet wired for sound at that time. What I located for home viewing was a very scratchy, dark copy of the talkie, complete with a song Clara belts out to Louise Beavers (though why a soda clerk should have a maid to sing to in the first place might be discussed in Social Sciences). At first you might think he was miscast as a tough, champion marksman "gob," but Fredric March is quite understandably marvelous in both versions; he's just as good silent as he is talking, and he and Bow prove a very important transitional match. I'm sure exposure in a Bow picture shot him to the front rank, and a teaming with one of the best of the new imports from New York (also teamed in the earlier THE WILD PARTY) must have been a strong influence on the proceedings. Overall a very appropriate tale of a gal who dates dozens at once, the dozens set out to humiliate her. Who knew the set-up guy (March) would actually fall for the randy miss (Bow)? The supporting sailors are around a good deal of the time, but seem to be utilized to better advantage in the silent version, the talking version being rather influenced by the comedic support of Harry Green, who's trade-mark fractured English is obviously more effective. While I lament that the perfect visual of the silent version had a great deal to do with the entertainment value of TRUE TO THE NAVY, this does not make the existing talkie a wash-out by comparison, just not as good. Clara's famous husband, the remarkably good-looking (no, this man was stunning, if you can buy that) Rex Bell has a brief scene as one of Clara's many suitors; Jed Prouty turns up as a dance-hall proprietor, and there is a very brief glimpse of young Frances Dee. Clara's partner behind the counter, one Adele Windsor, does a nice if brief job snapping back at the many suitors and sailors, but in reality her career and life were cut short not long after this picture was made.