For Reel


Breakfast for Two (1937)
April 20, 2015, 11:04 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alfred Santell
3 Stars
Breakfast for TwoBarbara Stanwyck considered Breakfast for Two a holiday after her taxing, Oscar-winning performance in Stella Dallas, which should just about tell one what to expect of this screwball outing. It’s lightweight and by the numbers, with the forgettable material elevated slightly by a game supporting cast including ever-reliable talents such as Eric Blore, Glenda Farrell, and Donald Meek. As with Female, in which Ruth Chatterton played the owner of a car company, Stanwyck’s heiress is often derided for trying to “wear the pants”, with her masculine qualities serving as a trait that the film seeks to correct. While one can’t hold contemporary gender standards to films of the past, it detracts from the screwball dynamic for the screenplay to treat her so dismissively while Herbert Marshall is wrought as little more than an innocent, put-upon man (his being a playboy is hardly a topic of criticism in the picture). The running gag involving a frequently interrupted wedding generates laughs due to Meek’s hilariously exasperated performance, and it culminates in an interesting way at a train station. Once the two lovers are stripped of all identifications of their wealth and are thrust out into the lower class public, only then can their union be fulfilled.



Polly of the Circus (1932)
October 10, 2014, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alfred Santell
2.5 Stars
Polly of the CircusClark Gable was none too pleased to be attached to Polly of the Circus, the creaky second adaptation of a successful stage play by Margaret Mayo. A script rewrite and the monetary encouragement of William Randolph Hearst (whose mistress, Marion Davies, was to play the titular trapeze artist) eased the process along. The final product is still close to a dud–the miscasting of Gable as a Salvation Army worker in Laughing Sinners was bad enough, and here he’s assigned the role of a reverend. Marion Davies was a great comedienne, but in this particular melodrama she’s rather dreadful. Her deliveries are reliably mawkish and she isn’t aided at all by Gable’s bored performance–it’s shocking to see two of the era’s most charismatic screen presences contribute such a flat romantic relationship. Despite the disappointment of the drama, the trapeze scenes are actually quite thrilling. The editing and use of long takes in the final sequence creates the necessary suspense, even if the circumstances behind the dramatic moment are ridiculous.