For Reel


Parole Girl (1933)
September 24, 2014, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edward F. Cline
3.5 Stars
Parole GirlParole Girl appears in an article written by film scholar David Bordwell entitled “Daisies in the crevices” which concerns itself with the visual pleasures of ordinary 1930s American cinema. The film is just that–it’s a low-budget, fast-paced programmer that was released to little fanfare during Holy Week in 1933. But, even in its ordinariness, it represents the perfect storm of Hollywood professionalism–there are no struggles with continuity, the screenplay (though relying on contrivances) is tidy and satisfying, and the cast is more than up to their collective task. Where it is exceptional is that it involves one of star Mae Clarke’s (sporting a stylishly short-cropped hairstyle) finest performances. She transitions from apologetic victim to vengeful harpy and finally back to sympathetic heroine with tremendous grace, finding the unifying trend of her character’s essential tragedy at each step. Perhaps her best moments are those in which she takes tremendous bliss in playing a domestic nightmare–she delights in manipulating her castrated husband and raiding his pockets for cash. What could have been a simple shrew becomes an unfulfilled housewife’s revenge fantasy: she’ll clean the apartment and fulfill her domestic duties, yes… but only when she feels like it!

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The Naughty Flirt (1931)
September 15, 2014, 2:40 am
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Director: Edward F. Cline
2 Stars
The Naughty FlirtAlice White came to Hollywood as a script girl for director Josef von Sternberg and eventually would find her way into pictures at the dusk of the silent era. Her performance in The Naughty Flirt neatly demonstrates why some had compared her to Clara Bow–she plays cute with the best of them, with much of the film having a preoccupation with her fluttering eyelashes and winning dimples. It’s only the historical interest of her star persona that makes the forgettable programmer worth watching. White plays a reckless socialite who turns straight in order to marry an attorney (Paul Page). Even if not especially well performed, there’s a lively vivacity in the early sequences that follow the hi-jinx of White and her buddies and it’s frankly baffling that audiences are meant to root for her to give that lifestyle up for the bore of a man she ends up with. Worst of all is that her turning point comes when he literally takes her over his knee and spanks her. Myrna Loy’s villainous supporting role has its moments, but it’s not terribly high praise to say that her’s is the best performance in the film.



Million Dollar Legs (1932)
June 15, 2014, 12:17 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edward F. Cline
4.5 Stars
Million Dollar LegsW.C. Fields’ first sound film plays like an avant-garde predecessor to Duck Soup, besting just about any Hollywood comedy of the era if one limits their criteria to the sheer absurdity of the gags. Jack Oakie stars as Migg Tweeny, a businessman who finds himself in the debt-ridden nation of Klopstokia. He quickly falls in love with the daughter of the nation’s president (Fields) and in order to win her father’s good graces he proposes that Klopstokia resolve their financial troubles by participating in the Olympic games. Veteran comic director Edward F. Cline is fairly graceless behind the camera–the blocking is often awkward and very rarely do match cuts actually match–but the sloppiness of the production adds to its rough, hangdog appeal. Little of what happens makes much sense, typified by the early appearances of a spy known as the Mysterious Man (Ben Turpin) who disappears entirely about a third of the way into the narrative. This tone of reckless abandon gives the picture a sort of comic surrealism, which is only heightened by the chaotic inventiveness of the gags–in one sequence, for instance, a man dressed in a goat costume races through a forest at superhuman speeds. Nonsensical and a complete mess in just about every way, Million Dollar Legs is no less some kind of masterpiece.



The Bank Dick (1940)
December 2, 2011, 7:52 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edward F. Cline

Often considered to be the best of his features, The Bank Dick stars W.C. Fields as a drunkard who stumbles his way into heroism. Beyond it’s comedic pleasures, it’s an interesting time capsule that reflects the American economy in recovery from the depression. Though the film involves low-life crooks, perhaps the most villainous of characters is the bank president – a smug, bourgeois classist who refuses Fields a proper handshake. Oblivious to the severity of his predicament, Fields finds himself caught up in an embezzlement scheme involving something called “Beefsteak Mines.” Much of the humor in the film is derived from similarly unusual names – characters are known as Og Oggilby, J. Pinkerton Snoopington, and so on – and it is Fields’ dry responses that serve as a consistent source of humor: “Og Oggilby… sounds like a bubble in a bathtub!” Though Fields’ comedy doesn’t quite have the ageless bite of the Marx Brothers, The Bank Dick remains a serviceable screwball farce with a nicely achieved climactic chase sequence.