21 June 2005 | tedg
Caught in an Eddy
Its a cliché, I know. But they don't make them like this any more.
And that's for a good, a very good reason: people wouldn't watch them, even those like myself who really value these.
What I'm talking about here are the comedy-mysteries that were pumped out in the 30s like TeeVee shows are now. Many of the same production values are used, in terms of economy and lack of depth. As with TeeVee stuff, the value is partially in the accretion of many similar movies -- in seeing one, you see some harmonization with hundreds of others.
We couldn't make these today because the genre was occluded by noir so far as the tone and by the hardboiled detective so far as story. These have not only changed movies, but the way we think.
So visiting these little films are somewhat like seeing that part of old London that's been turned into a theme park for tourists: something with a nostalgic. uncomplicated charm.
Of these, you cannot do better than James Gleason and the Hildegarde Winters things. These actually have a plot just complex enough to remind you that there is one. It doesn't "play fair" in that the complete solution uses knowledge the audience doesn't have. But in all these, the partial solution is telegraphed early.
I admit, I like the Hildegarde as portrayed by Edna Mae Oliver better in some regards. She's a more memorable character, and the notion of Gleason falling in love with her is as precious a joke as you can find.
But Zasu's got much better comic timing, so this has better jokes verbally.
Watch these, or something like them -- just like you might visit a "restored area" -- because such journeys are necessary to understanding film.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.