For Reel

Turn Back the Clock (1933)
August 22, 2012, 5:11 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edgar Selwyn

In a variation of the “grass is always greener” plot that Hollywood most memorably trotted out in It’s a Wonderful Life, Turn Back the Clock stars the enormously talented Lee Tracy as a man whose envy of a now rich childhood friend leads him to wishing that he had made better business decisions in life. His wish is fulfilled while on the operating table following a car accident – the main caveat being that the woman that he is now to marry is not the loyal Mae Clarke, but the dastardly Peggy Shannon, who cheats on him and mishandles his newly-acquired fortune. Ben Hecht, among the greatest of American screenwriters, co-wrote the script with director Edgar Selwyn, and together they mine the premise’s potential thoroughly. Had a character in 2012 traveled back to 1992, the changes would not have been particularly memorable, but between 1910 and 1930 there was plenty of material to play with. Tracy confuses townsfolk with words like “bootleg” or “speakeasy”, tells soldiers headed off to war to be wary of blind patriotism and that they will not have an easy time assimilating back into real life, and teases his wife (that is, the wife of his past life) that she should be wearing an outfit that shows more of her legs. The most notable of these gags sees Tracy complain to wedding singers about their antiquated music. Starring as the singers are none other than Moe, Larry, and Curly, surprisingly playing the straight men in one of their earliest screen performances.

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