31 August 2009 | simonqbb
I probably never would have bothered with this were I not a big Jean Arthur fan; but even in her oeuvre this is rarely mentioned. That may be because "Whirlpool" isn't *quite* the quintessential Arthur movie (see "Easy Living," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "The Devil and Miss Jones," etc.--now!). Still, Jean's in full blossom here, and well on her way to her glory days. Either way, this is a remarkably entertaining little movie, told in a brisk, energetic, entertaining style that seems to have been practically unique in some ways to the Hollywood of the early to mid-30's. Jack Holt stars as an ex-con who is reunited by chance with his daughter (Arthur) after a 20-year stint in prison: He's high up in the underworld, she's a newspaper reporter. The plot machinations come fast and furious, and contrived though they may be, they are only so in the best way--the way Hollywood could pull this kind of thing off in the 30's. Good performances all the way around, but Holt--often looking very much like Brando's Don Corleone in "The Godfather"--and Arthur carry the show. (Another Godfather mention: Donald Cook, who plays Arthur's boyfriend Bob, looks quite a lot like Al Pacino!) Holt, in fact, really carries this picture, bringing to his Buck Rankin/Duke Sheldon a very sympathetic mix of no-nonsense tough guy and heart, and the relationship between him and Arthur is thoroughly convincing. I have to say that the opening credits had me worried: The "whirlpool" seems to be nothing more than water spinning down a sink! But this is mostly the exception: There's even one montage of father and daughter that's remarkably well-done, almost even poetic in its images and editing. Overall, I wouldn't call this a classic, but if you like Jean Arthur or the movies of the 30's in general, this is a better bet than you might have guessed.