For Reel

The Affairs of Annabel (1938)
August 13, 2016, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Benjamin Stoloff
3.5 Stars
The Affairs of AnnabelThe Affairs of Annabel was the first film in which Lucille Ball made a significant impression as a lead, giving her the opportunity to both play the comic foil to Jack Oakie and to be glamorous. Running at just over an hour in length, the film (the first of an intended series) takes an episodic approach in laying out its convoluted plot, so much so that a sequence in a women’s prison is over and done with in the first reel. But screenwriters Bert Granet and Paul Yawitz (working from a story by Charles Hoffman) elevate the material above many films of its type due to how tightly scripted it is—nearly every element that is introduced is paid off, and all the major characters are given their due. It’s a deceptively simple juggling act, showing a storytelling efficiency that brings both a sophisticated and breezy telling to the satire. The highlight is a climactic shootout in which a foreign director is tricked into believing a real-life hostage situation is staged—the image of dozens of actor cops tumbling over fences as they retreat is irresistibly surreal. Ball is terrific (even when being held captive, she is constantly showing a convincing fieriness), and Oakie’s shtick wears a little thin but doesn’t overwhelm the action.

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