26 April 2005 | marcslope
This is MGM?...
The hardscrabble tenement streets shriek of Warner Brothers (though the movie moves from them soon enough), and the slanginess and very pre-Code suggestiveness of pretty young things kept in lavish Deco apartments is rather hard-boiled for the Ars Gratia Artis studio, too. And it's a strange brew, halfway between enjoyable, rude comedy and sentimental soap opera, with the likable Davies and the hard-staring Dove slugging it out for the affections of Robert Montgomery in his leading-man-opposite-MGM-leading-lady days. He's a drunk and a playboy, but also, we are led to believe, a decent and sacrificing guy. The friendship between Davies and Dove is convincing and touching (though it takes some unconvincingly abrupt turns), and Anita Loos could write girl-talk dialog with the best of them. There are also a couple of father-daughter scenes between Davies and the always wonderful James Gleason that will just break your heart. But the movie does keep skirting credibility (could the exquisite Davies and Zasu Pitts really spring from the same gene pool?), and Davies' Act Three laugh-clown-laugh, smile-through-tears demeanor is close to self-parody. Most jarring of all is dragging in Jimmy Durante for five minutes of hideously unfunny special material, including a strained sendup of "Grand Hotel" (also directed by Edmund Goulding) that serves mainly to remind one of Davies' limitations. A fun flick all in all, but when it came to hard-boiled dames and backstage melo, MGM wasn't really at the forefront.