For Reel

Son of a Sailor (1933)
April 15, 2015, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Lloyd Bacon
3.5 Stars
Son of a SailorAs in a typical Joe E. Brown vehicle, Son of a Sailor features the buffoon getting himself into all sorts of trouble thanks to his loud mouth and over-confidence. Here, a dishonest but ultimately innocent game of flirting leads him to butting heads with a spy ring and before the final reel finding himself aboard a target ship that is about to be bombed. Brown’s comedy is an acquired taste–he’s far from a subtle performer, using his mugging to appeal to the immediate pleasure of a chuckle–and this picture is probably a good start for anyone interested in his career. Big as his performance is, he is a little dialed down compared to his usual work, and director Lloyd Bacon uses the occasional inventive staging to elevate the comedy with visual flair. There’s an enjoyable bit in which Brown pays homage to Chaplin swallowing the whistle in City Lights by apparently swallowing a whole harmonica. It’s refreshing to see Brown generate laughs without using his elastic face, and Bacon’s framing that places Brown’s feet in close-up before they slowly part to reveal his sleeping face (accompanied with the absurdity of his musical breathing) is an amusing gag.

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