Friday, March 25, 2016

The 1930s iconic look, defined

Some people binge on Netflix. This week I binged on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), specifically five movies in a row form the 1930s, the earliest, 1930, almost from the dawn of the talkies. All were by early Hollywood pioneer Nick Grinde. The first film was The Bishop Murder Case (1930) starring Basil Rathbone as super sleuth Philo Vance, whose eye for the subtly of behaviour itself is worth watching the film for. This whodunit has a tight plot and it strings the audience along, very suitably, to the rather unexpected end…..Remote Control (Nick Grinde, Malcolm St. Clair & Edward Sedgwick, 1930), is a comedy about a self-centred and absolutely hilarious radio announcer (William Haines as William J. Brennan) who takes over  a radio station but inadvertently hires a member of a mob (John Miljan as Dr. Kruger) for a radio show, and who in turn gives coded hints on air to his crime gang…..Shopworn (1932) stars Barbara Stanwyck as Kitty (Lane) in a romance that is as much about class conflict and the double standard facing women as anything else. Lane is “shopworn,” sniffs paramour Dave Livingstone (Regis Toomey)’s mother (Clara Blandick) to “decent society,” and is banished to jail on trumped-up - what else? - morals charges, only to rehabilitate herself and become a stage star, but nevertheless still considered second class…..In Jailbreak (1936), a mobster going legal is murdered (not unlike Jimmy Hoffa) but the dumb gumshoes (often a theme of Grinde’s movies) are upstaged in the crime-solving department by a reporter (another of his themes), in this case the fast-talking Ken Williams (Craig Reynolds). All signs of guilt point to career criminal Ed Slayden (Richard Purcell) when the real murderer is someone, um, more officious…..Fugitive in the Sky (1937) is an early airplane hijack story, not be terrorists (of a sort) but by criminal thug Killer Madsen (Howard Phillips). Intrigue, romance and humor – also a hallmark of Grinde’s films – interplay. A reporter (Warren Hull as Terry Brewer) again saves the day (ah, the press!) while the airborne cast tosses loads of one-liners during their flight into perilous destiny. “I won’t sit down till I’m good and ready,” says one passenger. “Sit down!” shouts Killer. “I’m ready,” says the passenger…..Grinde’s films define what we think of as movies of the 1930’s, with hard-boiled gangsters, wiseacre reporters, scenes of spinning newspaper headlines, tough dames who usurp their stereotypical roles – often addressed as “sister” - dueling competition for the same gal between antagonists who collaborate in the end, and films which often end with a romantic kiss. 

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