For Reel


The Cowboy Quarterback (1939)
May 27, 2016, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Noel M. Smith
3 Stars
The Cowboy QuarterbackAfter the death of his long-time performing partner Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey attempted a career as a solo act with this remake of the Joe E. Brown vehicle Elmer, the Great. As in the Brown picture, Wheeler plays a small town bumpkin who proves to be incorruptible when his morals are tested with great financial success. If much of the film’s humor involves the simple-mindedness of the country folk, what makes the conceit ascend above cruel mockery is that they are regardless positioned to be innocent and morally just. The film’s best moments involve William Demarest as the coach who recruits Wheeler—there’s an amusing scene early on in a general store in which Demarest is bemused by the paltry earnings of the shop (there is also a good, understated joke as a local comes in to steal prunes). Wheeler and Woolsey’s Hold ‘Em Jail ultimately was a more cynical and biting response to the exploitation of the little man by institutions, but one can read The Cowboy Quarterback as being similarly preoccupied with this conflict between capital and the working class. As a performer, Woolsey doesn’t really come into his own without Wheeler on screen—a more earnest performance, such as Stuart Erwin’s in Make Me a Star, might have aided both the comedy and the emotional impact of the picture. Regardless, the film is peppered with a handful of successful sequences, and Demarest is enjoyable in his small role.



Mystery House (1938)
May 19, 2014, 1:55 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Noel M. Smith
2.5 Stars
Mystery HouseThe final adaptation of Mignon G. Eberhart’s mystery novel series displaces the duo of Nurse Sara Keate and her boyfriend Lance O’Leary outside of the hospital and into the more familiar old, dark house setting. A forgettable Dick Purcell plays detective O’Leary, arriving at the scene of the crime on the recommendation of Keate (Ann Sheridan), who has been busying herself caring for a wheelchair bound old woman (Elspeth Dudgeon). With a handful of suspects and a running time that doesn’t quite reach an hour, much of the dialogue is rushed and limited to pure exposition–it’s a shame that the O’Leary/Keate relationship isn’t given more room to breathe, with the enormously talented Sheridan being completely wasted. Dudgeon steals most of her scenes as the crotchety old woman, who early on is so opposed to the investigation that she appears to be a prime suspect. Fans of the genre will perhaps best remember her from the memorably titled Sh! The Octopus, which concludes with her undergoing a terrifying transformation.