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The Body Snatcher

Jekyll and Hyde revisited
To judge by the commentary on the DVD. the screenwriters expanded the role of Gray, the cab man, played wonderfully by Boris Karloff, from what it had been in the original Stevenson short story. It seems that they had the ingenious idea of creating a Jekyll-Hyde relationship between the body snatcher Gray and the respectable doctor; who did, however, pay for the freshly buried corpses Gray had "resurrected" . They also created a kind of moral ambiguity, in which good and evil are intermixed in the two characters. For instance: the evil body snatcher Gray is able to carry the little girl from his cab into the doctor's home,but she shrinks back from the doctor himself.

It turns out that years before Gray had taken the blame for the doctor in an earlier case of grave robbing, and been stoned as he ran through the streets. The doctor now despises him, but is ready to employ him for his own benefit. (It is mentioned that another doctor who had been implicated in the crime was living a comfortable life in London.) Karloff, in my view, is able to create an almost sympathetic character, while Daniell exudes the screen personality that made him a renowned portrayer of villainous roles in other film. There are two places where I infer the possible intent of the writers. At one point, both doctor and cab man are seen side-by-side in a close-up. looking into a mirror. Then, toward the close, after their final confrontation when the doctor has killed the cab man, he is next seen returning to his laboratory wearing the cab man's hat and cloak. Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, Stevenson's greatest short story, is an example of the "divided self" motif present in 19th century literature (cf. Faust and Mephistopheles). The two characters merge in the ambiguity of good and evil, and suggest its presence in all of us.


A major disappointment for an ardent admirer
I regard Kurosawa as the pre-eminent director during the second half of the 20th century. His films epitomize humanism, especially the ambiguity of human experience and the need to "know thyself". This theme appears in its essence form in Rashomon, but is at the heart of such diverse films as Stray Dog, Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. The aspect of Kurosawa's art that perhaps I most admire is the cohesion, as plot and characterizations develop seamlessly, whether in the relatively short Rashomon or in the longer Ran and Kagemusha. That is what I miss most in Red Beard. The earlier film which comes closest in theme is the much shorter The Lower Depths, in which the individual stories of the members of a slum community are artfully interwoven, and one comes to understand the needs of each one of the seven or eight principal characters. By contrast, Red Beard seems to fall into sections, not all of which have clear relevance to the framework narrative of the young doctor who comes of age under the guidance of a gruff but benevolent senior. After I had viewed the film I had the impression that I had seen a number of weekly episodes of an expertly directed television drama series, some reasonably absorbing, others over extended. I would suppose that the intention was to show how the young doctor matures from being self-centered and ambitious to serve a wealthy shogun, then after his has seen an assortment of human needs, to being compassionate and dedicated to serving the poor. Many of the performances are excellent, especially that of Yamamoto as the young doctor. For whatever reason, Mifune seems almost to be walking through what is for him an atypical role, one that perhaps did not allow him to convey the intensity he brought to roles in Stray Dog, Rashomon and Seven Samurai: three very different films, in which his charisma almost literally jumps of the screen, as with the foremost Hollywood and European stars such as Bogart and Gabin. In some of Red Beard's episodes Kurosawa shows his mastery in creating sympathy for the human condition; however, adding the parts does not necessarily produce a satisfactory whole.

Gods and Monsters

Who Is the Monster
It is difficult to sort out the same-sex personalities within this film. The only flamboyantly feminine male portrayal appears almost immediately, in the personality of the young man who interviews Whale, gushing over the early horror films, but wanting to know almost nothing about Whale the man; only slightly taken aback by Whale's demand that he remove one item of clothing in exchange for an answer to each question he asks. It seemed clear to me that Whale is just playing with him, and has no real interest in him as a partner. The same young man appears once more as "assistant to the social secretary" of George Cukor, whom Whale has identified as homosexual, who has arranged to have Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester at Cukor's party so that he can arrange a photo of Whale with "his two monsters"; a continuation of his earlier appearance. Whale is the prototype effete not flamboyant British arts based homosexual,in the manner of a Noel Coward or John Gielgud. He does not attempt to hide his same-sex preference from either the reporter or the young gardener whom he "courts". It interested me that when he joined the Marines, to please his father, he never saw combat, whereas Whale did during World War I, where, the film and the dialogue tell us, he first fell in love with a man, a fellow soldier, whose face, remarkable similar to the gardener's, appears periodically throughout the film. The third image of homosexuality appears in the characterization of Brendon Frasier as the gardener. Every man who has had a poor father relationship will often have deep rooted questions about his own masculinity. We see this in his being intermittently drawn toward, then repulsed by Whale's homosexuality. I have seen this ambivalence enacted on a number of occasions in male figuratively "fatherless" students, seeking a close relationship with an older man. In the midst of their developing relationship a brief scene informs us that he may have had relations with a waitress, who does not share his admiration for the original "Frankenstein"; and in an epilogue we see him as husband and father; however, walking in silhouette into the distance as did Karloff in the film. Does this imply that he is the monster? Some reviewers for IMDb have concluded that Whale is himself the monster? Who is the monster? Or is it no one individual in the film? At one point it is suggested that we are all monsters, both desiring friendship and destroying those to whom we reach out but who can never satisfy our inmost needs. A fascinating film that will be in my mind for many weeks or months, as I attempt to sort it all out.

The Maltese Falcon

Adds a new dimension to the classic version
I have seen this version of Maltese Falcon three times, from off-the-air taping. Of course, it follows the same basic plot line of the 1941 film, but that early film noir classic becomes more like a morality play, with relatively little emotion. From the start, Sam Spade is portrayed as a ladies man: an approach validated by the smooth good looks of Ricardo Cortez and his urbane manner. It is difficult to imagine a first shot of a woman's legs coming out of Sam's office as the first shot of the 1941 film, in light of Bogart's understated performance. Moreover, one gets a strong impression that there is a real attraction between Cortez and Daniels, conveyed not so much by the scene in Sam's apartment with its bathtub scene and her stripping in his bedroom, where she has spent the night; rather, in the last scene where Sam is visiting her in her prison cell (instead of turning her over to the police with no regrets, as in 1941) and tells the matron to provide her with every luxury she wants, and we see her alone in the cell, weeping and bitterly commenting on (their?) love. There are other interesting features. Whereas in 1941 a homosexual relationship between Greenstreet and Lorre lay beneath the surface, in this film Gutman strokes Wilmer as "my own son" and seems truly troubled at the thought of giving him up as the "fall guy". Dwight Frye as Wilmer has only a few lines, but gives his usual expressive performance of mental unbalance, without the hardness of Elisha Cook, Jr. in 1941. It's interesting for me to speculate how I would have evaluated the 1941 film if I had seen this one first, and used it as the basis for comparison.

Dancing Lady

Clicheed plot, interesting specialty numbers
Compared with Warner backstage musicals of the same period, Dancing Lady seems pretty bland. with Crawford's almost repetition of some variation of "I just want to dance". There is no bite in the script. I would never have thought that Clark Gable could show such little charisma, even at this early point in his career. When she actually dances, it's clear why Crawford's show business began with winning an amateur dance contest. To be charitable, one can say that she was not light on her feet. (in the film we are asked to believe that three minutes of Gable's watching her dance won her a place in a major stage production. There are points of interest, however. Fred Astaire appears as himself, in the same year he debuted in a supporting role in Flying Down to Rio; and as he had to do with a number of the partners cast in his lesser films, he manages to make Crawford look good in the film's major production number. (He once did the same with a clothes tree) It is also interesting to see the Three Stooges in a major studio film, and a young looking Nelson Eddy two years before his breakthrough in Naughty Marietts. Fortunately, here he is not called upon to act, and he is in top voice. One extra comment: Was Crawford already married to Franchot Tone, who played her suitor in this film, and already partnering with Clark Gable?

Scarface: The Shame of the Nation

Muni, Robinson and Cagney
Inevitably, Scarface will be compared with the near-contemporary gangster films, Little Caesar and Public Enemy, and Paul Muni with their stars Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney. What does it tell us about that era: that all three careers took off with portrayals of gang leaders? The three performances significantly differ. Robinson rises to the top by the use of a crafty intelligence as well as violence; Cagney by a type of shrewdness and personal charisma. Paul Muni's Tony Comonte is neither intelligent nor personable; his manners are crude; and at times he is almost childlike in his behavior: for instance, when he is enjoying a play and is interrupted after the second act, summoned to do another killing,and leaves a henchman behind, who can tell him later how it came out, then is delighted to hear that the "guy with the collar" didn't get the girl; rather, the rougher suitor. He can be described as cunning and animistic: a young wolf who eliminates any rival who stands in his way; finally the leader of the pack One can be moved by Robinson's last words, "Is this the end of Little Caesar?" or by Cagney's body falling through the open door of his family home, he having been killed off-screen. Comonte's death is that of a trapped or cornered animal, wordless in a beautifully staged sequence,as brutal as his life, depicted for the audience in every detail. Of the three portrayals, Muni's comes across to me as the most chilling, in its enactment of instinctive evil. How ironic that He would later win his greatest fame for his performances as Emile Zola and Louis Pasteur.


Backstage opera is a change from backstage Broadway
No one should expect a well-wrought, intricately developed plot from a film that was designed as a showpiece for the American baritone Laurence Tibbett,any more than one would expect it from a Warner's backstage musicals from the 1930s. Tibbett was one of the few stellar performers of the Metropolitan Opera who was equally at home and successful in popular music. (I believe at one time, toward the end of his opera career, he was featured on "Your Hit Parade", singing what were supposedly the five or six most popular songs of the week, judged by record sales.) At the Metropolitan Opera he played the lead in the premieres of American operas such as Merry Mount, Emperor Jones and The King's Henchmen. I believe that he made the first commercial recordings from Porgy and Bess as Porgy, using the same dialect as in this film when he sings the Negro spiritual "Glory Road" in a perhaps over-dramatic rendition. The role of Bess is sung by another Caucasian opera star. Helen Jepson,who made one more Hollywood appearance in the pathetic Goldwyn Follies.

The supporting cast of experience character actors,as often happens, manages to give the claptrap plot a measure of credibility. Virginia Bruce, the leading lady, was an actress/singer who never broke through to stardom, despite a lengthy filmography. She had a beautiful soprano voice and a lovely appearance, but did not project much warmth as in the manner of top stars, even in her one solo from Carmen, as the timid and loving Micaela. Her voice belonged in operetta, not in either opera or show business tunes. Jeanette MacDonald has the former cornered, and there were many with more sensuous voices who succeeded with the latter. But she did look terrific at the top of the "wedding cake" number in The Great Ziegfeld, the most prominent role of her career.

Henry V

A tale of two generations
The high degree of artistry displayed in the acting, direction and mounting of Branagh's film have been well covered. What strikes me most, as one who saw the Olivier film at the time of its premiere and who has viewed it several times since, is the contrast between the two depictions of the Battle of Agincourt. Olivier produced Henry V with the full cooperation of the British government, receiving permission to film in Technicolor, (which during he 1940s was used mostly for musicals), and, even in wartime, use of British soldiers for the battle scenes. The rationale was, that the film would serve to boost morale, as the victory of the British over the dubious territorial claim of the French substituted for the war against Germany. One of my most vivid memories from that era is the shot of the long bows, the British secret weapon and the earliest long-range weaponry, arching into the air, causing death and confusion in the French ranks. The long bows are there in the Branagh film, but they are much less sophisticated in appearance, and are not presented as being decisive. In this film there is much more emphasis upon the man-to-man combat, even by the king himself, who ends up covered with blood, which I don't recall having seen on Olivier. This makes the battle seem much more desperate, and less noble than in the earlier film. If I were to compare the two, I would say that the war in the latter had a stronger resemblance to the John Wayne war dramas in which the Americans win a clear and decisive victory. Here we have a picture of war closer to that in Private Ryan. The message: Over the years war has lost much of the glamor associated with many (not all) Hollywood productions, for those who have seen newsreels from Vietnam and Iraq.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

engaging, but not compelling
I first saw this film in its initial theatrical release, and recall that I, a younger, relatively innocent teenager, became very absorbed and, in those years of more conservative social norms, rather shocked by the grittiness of the plot and the eroticism. Lana Turner, up to that point in her career as a budding MGM star, here had a chance to move out of her glamorous starlet image the studio had nurtured. This seems to have been her opportunity to develop as an actress. Within the plot she was given the difficult task of making the transition from sultry seducer, to murderess, to vixen; and at the same time to maintain a level of erotic tension with John Garfield, not ideally cast as a ladies' man. She did not manage to maneuver these changes of character with complete success; especially when it came to the point of conveying the vixen quality; she comes across more as bitchy. In the early scenes,however, she takes the next step from girl-next-door ingénue with assurance. The film as a whole suffers from the fact that it is inevitably compared with the later Double Indemnity, and the performances of Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray; especially her embodiment of the archetypal cold, manipulative and unloving female. For me, the difference between the two similar narratives is that between a rating of eight and a rating of ten.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Extended Sitcom, with Very Fine Performances
It's not surprising that an (unsuccessful) attempt was made, after the surprising success of this film with a rather bizarre title, to base a weekly TV sitcom based on the characters. Like a well done sitcom, Greek Wedding goes down easily and warms the heart with its adaptation of Romeo and Juliet or Abie's Irish Rose. This means that the story of young love and family opposition goes down easily and makes a pleasant way to spend the evening. Even though the ethnic disparity between the two families is there, it is given a comedic edge, and no one can doubt that all will work out well. Of course, there is more material than could be contained in a half-hour sitcom, but the elements of the plot could have been divided so as to stretch out the story over a period of weeks. For instance, the boy's vegetarian preference could have made an entire episode. What does set Greek Wedding above the typical sitcom, however, is the high level of the performances, especially those of Michael Constantine and Laine Kazan as the girl's parents. Even as he is condemning the match it is clear that he truly loves his daughter; and because she is so strong (and wise)as the archetypal mother the outcome is never in doubt. There are few false notes, and most viewers will not regret the time spent with these families.

The Great American Broadcast

Routine Plot, but has some good musical numbers
During the first twenty minutes or so there is actually some loose correspondence between the actual early history of radio and the history as presented here: the broadcast of a heavyweight prize fight, the proposal to broadcast a national political convention, the commercial link between the development of broadcasting and the sale of radios for home entertainment; and also the way national broadcasts began. The opening sequence before the title would have caught the attention of film goers in the forties, with brief clips of jack Benny, Fred Allen, Kate smith, Walter Winchell and other radio stars. Unfortunately, the origin and evolution of radio broadcasting becomes merely the background for a clichéd romance. However, there are some entertaining musical moments along the way. Jack Oakie stands out from the rest of the cast because of his energy, while Alice Faye, a favorite of mine from the 1930s, sings well, but seems mostly tired, except when she and Oakie are performing a song and dance number together. John Payne, Fox's back-up leading man (after Tyrone Power, who had moved on to major dramatic roles by this time), always does his job in a professional, though bland, manner. The Nicholas Brothers always impress. 20th Century Fox seemed to find some way of working them into most of the 1940s musicals. On the other hand, the Wiere Brothers are truly tiresome, supposedly performing over the radio an act that has to be seen to be enjoyed (or not, in this case). This review may sound more negative than I intended. In fact, most viewers will enjoy this hour and a half for what it is.

The Leopard Man

Saved by the director and company
The Leopard Man is a triumph of style over content. The plot of an escaped leopard terrifying a community certainly justifies calling this a horror film, but it succeeds as a minor masterpiece in the genre only because of the elegant direction and cinematography, which took advantage of the black and white medium. In the DVD Val Lewton Collection , Citizen Kane is mentioned frequently, both for its artistry and for its financial disappointment; (though I have read that in fact it turned a small profit.) Also mentioned are the films of Astaire and Rogers, and their use of black and white photography. It may be that Lewton and company learned from their RKO predecessors, especially Citizen Kane; in this case to cast an ominous aura over the action. The color black is the key, from the time that the leading lady decides to wear a black gown for her night club entrance with the leopard. The leopard image is used to foreshadow the deaths of the two young girls. In one case the black hand shadow of a leopard head made by her brother hangs over and behind her head as she leaves the house. In the other, the mother of the second victim is seen carrying a black cat in her arms. Then there is the Ace of Spades dealt to Margo by the fortune teller on two occasions. All very stylish! If not for the men behind the scenes the film would have been lost in the abyss of B films gone and also forgotten. The performances are about as wooden as one would expect in a typical B film, with only Margo conveying some of the tension one would expect from persons in a small town with a frightened leopard on the loose. However, special note should be taken of Dynamite, the big cat who receives billing, possibly as a result of his terrifying performance in Cat People, when he set the stage for the action, chewing on a large roast in his cage. However, one cannot help but be puzzled by the fact that a black panther is playing a leopard (which in this film did change his spots). Did RKO have him under a long-term contract? Comparing his performance with those of the actors reminds me of the supposed comment of director van Dyke after the filming of Rose Marie, starring Nelson Eddy as a mountie: "It was easier to get a good performance from his horse than it was from Nelson".

Noah's Ark

Incredible accomplishment
I viewed this film this week on a tape I made about 20 years ago. I had not watched it since. Darryl Francis Zanuck (!), who wrote the script, used a familiar device of paralleling "modern" and a "historic" plots. in a more condensed form than Griffith had used the device in Intolerance; however, the parallels were just about as loosely drawn: comparison of World War I(a metaphorical "deluge") with the Biblical deluge that overwhelmed the world. It was interesting that the modern plot also ended like a Griffith film, with what turned out to be the vain vision of the coming of a world without war, as in Birth of a Nation. All that being given, one must say that the two parallel plots were equally well handled. The modern plot of three young people caught up in the war may have been clichéd, but it was so persuasively acted by Dolores Costello, George O'Brien, Noah Beery and, to my surprise Guinn Williams, who never before or after had an equal opportunity to demonstrate his capability as an actor. (His death scene was performed with both a masculine dignity and a display of his masculine love toward his buddy.) In my opinion, the friendship was handled better than the contemporary bond in Wings. Of course, the impact of the film, somewhat skewed by the clumsy interspersing of titles and spoken dialog, and its fame, will always rest upon the re-telling of the Noah legend. The delivery of the ten commandments, with the mountainside opening like a book, is extremely imaginative, even though it borrows from Moses'vision. But the impact of the advent of the flood has never been duplicated. It makes deMille's two-time separation of the Red Sea in a studio tank look weak. Of course, our later knowledge that several extras died in the cascade of water affects our reaction. However, one must say that no computer technology can ever match the sight of real water and real persons running for their lives. Actually, I'm rather ashamed that I can watch the scene and discuss it for its entertainment value. But I personally felt drained by the time the film ended. For me, it is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Does not fully live up to its promise
This is an excellent example of the kind of period piece that MGM did better than any other studio. I saw the film when it first came out, and the other night viewed it for only the second time since then. Oddly enough, what stuck with me most during the long interval between first release and videotape was not the changing portrait, but Angela Lansbury singing the sentimental Victorian ballad Bye-Bye, Little Yellow Bird, as well as her heart=wrenching performance, which I believe was her screen debut. MGM gave her only one more opportunity to shine as a contract player, in another period piece, Gaslight. Who could have guessed her future success on stage and television? The first half of the film has continued to engross me, probably because much of the dialogue came directly from Oscar Wilde, and was delivered in exactly the right tone by George Sanders. In my opinion, the tension was built up admirably, beginning with Dorian's prayer to preserve his youthful beauty, until we saw the changed portrait for the first time. After that, the suspense was gone, and what was left was a conventional period piece, with Sanders virtually absent, Donna Reed totally miscast as a British aristocratic,(no one could have guessed her future, either) and Peter Lawford looking as though he wondered what he was doing there in a role not at all developed. I would rate the first half at 10, the second at 7, so I compromised on 8.It's worth seeing.

Hello Frisco, Hello

Expect entertainment only
Unlike many musicals from Warners and MGM, the scenes of stage performance in those from 20th Century Fox look as though they could actually be performed on a stage, with straight front shooting, and relatively little camera movement, except for close-ups. This approach works, if you have actors who can draw you in simply by their talent, Talent is abundant here, and the musical numbers are believably staged. Fortunately, there are many of these: enough to carry the hackneyed plot. After more than twelve years in films, Jack Oakie could still do comic dance and joke routines far superior to those of most; and is helped wonderfully by June Havoc, who should have received one of the co-star billings in the titles, instead of being listed second in the supporting cast. John Payne was the studio's dependable leading man, in both musicals and light drama. The beautiful Lynn Bari, who never broke through to star status, shines in the thankless role of the selfish society girl.

But Alice Faye is at her best in her last major musical for Fox. It's easy to see why Archie Bunker occasionally referred to her as his feminine ideal. She is gorgeous in Technicolor close-ups. Here, as in other films she wears period costumes more convincingly than most other actresses, who seem to be dressing up for a costume party. Her voice was unique, and her delivery understated; unlike many of her contemporaries, she can still be heard on CDs. I didn't count, but she must have sung ten or more numbers, alone or with Payne. Oakie and Havoc, including an opening and closing rendition of her signature "You'll Never Know". In a years later TV interview, she commented that toward the end of her Fox career she was being replaced by Betty Grable, whose more overt sex appeal made her famous during the war years, but whose career as a top attraction did not last as many years as Faye's (about ten) What impressed me was that she made that comment without any tone of bitterness. Incidentally, this is not a criticism of Grable, who had a winning, self-deprecating personality in later years. In another TV interview, when she was asked how she became a star, she responded: I could sing a little, dance a little, and act a little, but I had great-looking legs. I can't help comparing these two ladies, both of whom had long-lasting show business marriages, and both of whom seemed to be nice persons, with some contemporary "stars".

Subarashiki nichiyôbi

unusual capra-esquire film
This film provides an interesting counterpoint to other Kurosawa films. Its portrayal of post-war Japan recalls Stray Dog, but the poverty and sleaziness in this case are used as the background for a romance between two very attractive young people, who have a Sunday date, but only 35 yen to spend. Yet there is not the gloom of Lower Depths. Both have jobs and we see his minimally decent rental room. The title seems throughout the film to be rather ironic, since most of the situations they encounter, such as being cheated at a snack bar, are far from wonderful. However, Kurosawa puts a positive spin at the conclusion. I agree with another reviewer that the device of having the girl speak to the audience, seeking our sympathy for young couples without money, who wish to marry, is a very awkward device that distracts from our interest in the relationship. However, I disagree with another reviewer who describes the ending as corny: we've all heard of Capra-corny. This film does not come up to Capra's level, but it is reminiscent of his human interest. It seemed to me that the closing device of the girl's making a date for the next Sunday works very well. Every film needs closure, and this one does not deal in high drama at any point, so a highly dramatic climax would not be appropriate. The viewer who wants that should go to Ran or Kagemusha. In my view, the early Kurosawa films showed him how to develop human relationships: a gift that later would be present in the samurai films, and would make them much more than action epics.

Anchors Aweigh

nostalgia, unlimited
Since I first saw Anchors Aweigh in 1945, viewing it on videotape holds a lot of nostalgia for me. At age 15, it was easy for me to be drawn into the first of the great MGM Technicolor musicals. Now I am perhaps most interested in thinking about the future careers of the leading players. Though Sinatra had done a couple of negligible films soon after his emergence after his Dorsey days, as a solo singer, this was his first major film appearance. As another viewer noted, this seems almost to be a warm-up for On the Town. Sinatra may have had to work hard at it, but his dance with Kelly is credible, and he would do better in their next pairings. However, observing his physique, it's easy to see why he was caricatured as a string bean. Who would have imagined that within a decade he would win an academy award for acting, and go on to play many roles as a tough detective or leader in combat. Though Gene Kelly's personality and dancing dominated this film, his winsome performance did not suggest that he would become a major creative force, almost the iconic figure, for MGM musicals, where he developed a style of dance complementary to that of Fred Astaire. Finally, it was strange to see the fresh-faced Dean Stockwell and remember that he would later play a "thrill" killer in Compulsion, based on the Leopold-Loeb murder from the 1920s. An additional note: One reviewer praised the performance of Betty Garrett as Sinatra's love interest. She later played opposite him in On the Town, but Pamela Britton was featured in this film.


Swanson shows what it takes to be a star!
As one reviewer noted, the high spots are not evenly dispersed within the film. Also, my copy is also abridged, which probably accounts for the lack of transitions between many scenes. However, the seller seems to have had access to a fairly clear print. For me, the subway scene by itself was worth buying the tape. Swanson had a real gift for comedy, as seen in her varied expressions as she is shoved, loses her hat, and has to edge her way both onto and out of the subway car. Undoubtedly, the director deliberately chose tall or burly men for the scene, since they contrast so sharply with Swanson's diminutive stature. I happen to have viewed this film only a coupole of weeks after having seen Sadie Thompson. In my review of that film, I noted that she managed to infuse even the shady character of Sadie with some humor. The plot of Manhandled is, of course, much weaker, and it is difficult to remember any of the other performances. Swanson was a true star, one who could shine even in the midst of a mediocre plot, as she does here. If we think of "Bette Davis eyes", we can also think of the "Gloria Swanson facial expression" that she could vary to meet a diversity of emotions. As one who knew her first from Sunset Boulevard, it is interesting to note in her silent films, the anticipation of her performance there, with its wide range of emotions required from the star. When Norma Desmond laments the loss of faces in sound film, Swanson must ruefully have her own experience in mind. Without her, the stale plot of Manhandled would have gone the way of all B-flicks. That's what a star does.

Sadie Thompson

The amazing Gloris Swanson
In this film, Swanson shows that she was one of those personalities who almost literally jumped from the screen. This is the first of two excellent film versions of Rain; the other being that of Joan Crawford.The fact that Swanson was somewhat older then Crawford adds to the greater impact of her performance, in my opinion. She offers us a world-weary prostitute who may or may not be looking to settle down; yet who still has fire in her veins. She does an outstanding job in conveying the emotions of Sadie both when she is sensuous and flirtatious at the beginning of the film; and when she undergoes a temporary change of character. Those of us who have seen Sunset Boulevard half-a-dozen times can easily see the anticipation of her bravura performance as Norma Desmond here, in Sadie Thompson. Her films after Sadie were trifles in which she had little opportunity to display any depth of character. Film history sentimentalists had to be gratified by her re-emergence in Sunset Boulevard, even though many might regard her performance there as somewhat overdone. All other components of this film are as admirable as other comments claim. However, I will put in a plug for Walter Huston in Rain, especially the brief close-up when you can see his judgmental attitude toward Sadie turn into lust. Lionel Barrymore is very good, but seems to me to be somewhat more remote from the character. The completion of the final scenes with stills and occasional bits of film are not a great barrier to enjoyment of this classic.

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