4 November 2016 | joe-pearce-1
Stereotypical But It Has Its Moments
Someone else here has mentioned that William Gargan doesn't have enough charm to carry off this kind of leading man role. That may be a perfect critique of why he rarely made it into the leading man category, even in B films. But he does have acting talent, and a natural acting technique far beyond what most leading men were exhibiting even as late as 1933, so he was a natural enough actor for a certain kind of rough and ready lead. He carries the macho and bravery elements off very well here, the romance a little less so, and Frances Dee, who could give half of the actresses back then and all of the currently-practicing ones lessons in unforced charm, is a distinct asset as a sob sister reporter who is as manic in her own area as he is behind a camera. This was one of Ralph Bellamy's earliest other-man-as-loser roles, but usually he was losing the heroine to Cary Grant, Gary Cooper or Fredric March; to lose her to William Gargan is almost insulting! Frances Dee was hardly your go-to actress for near manic career girls, but she handles the role very well and it is fairly obvious early on that Stalwart Ralph will lose her to Tough Bill, and after she steals Tough Bill's car to file a story first, who knows if even Tough Bill will be able to hold onto this young woman? Anyway, this is a pretty effective B film, with excellently integrated newsreel shots of fires, floods and other disasters. Some of the sets integrating Gargan, Wallace Ford, Hobart Cavanaugh and Jack LaRue into such goings-on are fairly huge for a B budget and manage to make the film look a bit more expensive than it obviously was. Stereotypical it may be, but the actors all acquit themselves well, the feeling for relationships between them is quite solid, Bellamy may lose the girl but he still manages to be pretty heroic, and the camera-work (given that this is a movie very much ABOUT camera-work) is quite good throughout. As his leading roles went, this is most definitely one of Gargan's best opportunities, and he plays it pretty much for all it is worth - except for that fatal lack of real charm, especially "Irish-American charm", which is much needed here and that he had so much of in real life. (I can still clearly recall his appearances in his anti-cancer crusade after he had lost his voice and career to that disease while only in his fifties - maybe the first actor to ever go public with such a disability - and where he almost reeked of a combination of goodness and charm!) Still, pretty good going by all concerned, and worth a watch. A thought: Perhaps the defining difference between leading men back in the 1930s and leading men today is that that previous era's leading men all assumed a certain maturity perhaps unwarranted by their actual years (think of Clark Gable, Fred MacMurray and even James Stewart in the 1930s); both Gargan and Bellamy were still in their twenties here, but they seem to have experienced an awful lot of living in their looks and acting styles - whereas most of today's leading men, some of whom have been around for a quarter-century and are now in their early fifties, still seem to have a late twenties or early thirties age sensibility about them - think Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves. The only modern major actor I can think of who has arrived on the scene (20 years back now) with a maturity of aspect and attitude far in advance of his years is George Clooney.