Monday, July 06, 2015

A Birthday Tribute to Janet Leigh

I've always enjoyed sharing a birthdate with actress Janet Leigh, who was born on this date in Merced, California, in 1927.

Leigh was cast in MGM's post Civil War film THE ROMANCE OF ROSY RIDGE (1947) shortly after her photograph was spotted by Norma Shearer at a ski resort. She's seen here in a publicity still for the movie:

Leigh was a natural and her career took off; between her film debut and the end of 1949 alone, she'd made nine more films! My personal favorites include LITTLE WOMEN (1949) and HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949), which both see a lot of play here around Christmastime, and SCARAMOUCHE (1952). She's seen here in a publicity photo for LITTLE WOMEN:

A selection of additional favorite publicity photos:

Leigh married Tony Curtis in 1951 and for a time they were one of Hollywood's golden glamour couples; they became the parents of future actresses Kelly and Jamie Lee.

Their several films together included THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH (1953)...

...and THE VIKINGS (1960):

Alas, their real-life love story didn't last and in 1962 Leigh and Curtis parted ways. Janet married Robert Brandt as soon as her divorce from Curtis was final, and their marriage lasted over four decades, until her passing in 2004. Leigh's ashes are interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park.

To learn more about Janet Leigh, read her 1984 autobiography THERE REALLY WAS A HOLLYWOOD and her 1995 book PSYCHO: BEHIND THE SCENES OF A CLASSIC THRILLER, cowritten with Christopher Nickens.

Janet Leigh films reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: THE ROMANCE OF ROSY RIDGE (1947), IF WINTER COMES (1947), THE DOCTOR AND THE GIRL (1949), SCARAMOUCHE (1952), JUST THIS ONCE (1952), CONFIDENTIALLY CONNIE (1953), THE NAKED SPUR (1953), ROGUE COP (1954), MY SISTER EILEEN (1955), PETE KELLY'S BLUES (1955), and TOUCH OF EVIL (1958).

Previously: TCM Star of the Month: Janet Leigh (October 2014).

Related post: HITCHCOCK (2012).

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Book Review: The Lives of Robert Ryan

THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN is a new biography of the actor by J.R. Jones. It was published in mid-May by the Wesleyan University Press.

I had the pleasure of hearing the author speak at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in late May, just as I had begun reading the book. As I noted in my festival coverage, Jones said that getting Ryan "on the page" was a challenge as he was a quiet man who lived an "un-Hollywood" lifestyle.

Ryan's own children told Jones that their father was "hard to read," while friends and colleagues said they loved Ryan yet didn't know him well.

Despite that challenge Jones does an excellent job capturing Ryan, a thoughtful man whose real life persona was worlds away from the "tough guys" he so memorably captures on screen.

The real Ryan was a quiet man of pacifist tendencies who married an idealistic Quaker; that said, he served in the Marines for the better part of two years, during and just after WWII ("What else was I gonna do?"). One of the interesting aspects of Ryan's life is that there are pieces which don't always seem to fit together.

While Ryan loved acting, it seems safe to say that the most important aspect of his life was his family; he was a devoted family man, married for over 33 years and the father of three children. Once again, though, there's a flip side to that, in that Ryan had dark moods, during some parts of his life he drank too much, and he had a brief fling with his BERLIN EXPRESS (1948) costar Merle Oberon -- aspects of his real-life personality which seem closer to some of his movie personas.

Beyond his dedication to his family, Ryan cared about the wider community in which he lived; he was instrumental in the founding of Oakwood School, a successful venture which continues to this day, and he was also involved in liberal politics.

Ryan and his wife Jessica were both introverts, and one of the great stories in the book is about the close friendship Ryan formed with Pat O'Brien when they appeared together in BOMBARDIER (1943). Ryan asked O'Brien if his introversion would be a hindrance in the movie business; in response O'Brien pointed out that James Cagney was very private but one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Ryan said, "That was all I needed to know. I became a Cagney." He later said, "An actor's private life should be very private. The public should see nothing but what they see on the screen."

Another wonderful anecdote concerns Ryan showing up to read for a role in TENDER COMRADE (1943). There were "about a hundred" other actors at the audition, but Ginger Rogers slipped the producer a note which said, "I think this is the guy." The producer later gave the note to Ryan, and he kept it for the rest of his life. A touching story, and, as an aside, it's interesting to note that Ryan was on the opposite side politically from both O'Brien and Rogers, two important professional mentors in his film career.

I was intrigued to learn that after Ryan's beloved wife Jessica died suddenly at the age of 57, Ryan formed a close relationship with actress Maureen O'Sullivan; like him, O'Sullivan was widowed and Irish Catholic. Ryan's son Cheyney said that his father liked that O'Sullivan was reserved and thoughtful, and he noted his father needed a partner emotionally. Ryan had had a devoted relationship with his wife, deeply admiring her intelligence and opinions, and when she was gone it left a huge hole in his life; as Jones notes in his introduction, with her passing "his sense of self began to crumble." Whether Ryan and O'Sullivan would have married we'll never know, as Ryan himself suddenly passed on in 1973, just one year after his wife.

The book is deeply researched and very well-written; indeed, I'd rank this with the biography of Charles Walters I reviewed earlier this year as one of the best biographies I've read in the last few years. I give it my highest recommendation.

THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN is an attractive hardcover with dust jacket which is 357 pages, including index, end notes, and a detailed listing of Ryan's performances. The book is well illustrated with photographs printed directly on the pages; many of the photographs were provided by Ryan's family, making them particularly unique and interesting. Additional photographs are from the collection of Franklin Jarlett, the late author of another very good book on Ryan, ROBERT RYAN: A BIOGRAPHY AND CRITICAL FILMOGRAPHY.

Note: This book is the second title reviewed from my 2015 Summer Classic Film Book Reading List.

As a final note, earlier this year I profiled Robert Ryan for ClassicFlix, providing an overview of a few of his best films, and I've previously written about Ryan's founding of the Oakwood School for The Dark Pages.

Sincere thanks to Wesleyan University Press for providing a copy of this book for review.

Tonight's Movie: Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS (1943) is an all-star Warner Bros. extravaganza just released in a gorgeous Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS is one of three "all-star" films Warner Bros. released in 1943-44, the others being THIS IS THE ARMY (1943) and HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN (1944). (The three films were previously jointly released on DVD in the Homefront Collection.) All three films featured Joan Leslie in the lead ingenue role, supported by an impressive collection of WB stars.

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS is somewhat of a mixed bag, insofar as the "plot" tying the musical numbers together is, shall we say, lame. It has to do with Eddie Cantor and his lookalike, bus driver Joe (Cantor in a dual role); Cantor is a pain in the neck when he takes over running a charity benefit, but Joe manages to take his place, enabling a would-be singer (Dennis Morgan) and songwriter (Leslie) with their chance to shine. The story's kind of confusing and not very interesting. It's also a bit puzzling at first realizing that Morgan and Leslie are playing "characters" while all the other stars in the movie play themselves.

The storyline stretches the movie out to a longish 127 minutes, but if you put those "bridging" scenes aside -- or perhaps even hit the fast-forward button! -- there's a great deal to like in the movie, which is jam-packed with musical numbers including:

*Dinah Shore crooning "The Dreamer" and "How Sweet You Are" -- the latter song is especially lovely, and Dinah had a smile like a million bucks.

*Ann Sheridan instructing a bunch of college girls, including Joyce Reynolds, that "Love Isn't Born (It's Made)"; look for Virginia Patton, who played sister-in-law Ruth in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), as one of the girls.

*Errol Flynn singing and dancing with gusto as a Cockney in "That's What You Jolly Well Get."

*Morgan and Leslie (dubbed by her regular voice double Sally Sweetland) charming in "No You, No Me."

*Morgan singing the best, most imaginative number in the film, "Good Night, Good Neighbor," with Alexis Smith dancing; what a treat to see Smith dance so elegantly on film! (An aside, Lynn Baggett, the lovely lady Morgan croons to, had a tragic life.)

The early part of the movie also provides a particularly good tour of the Warner Bros. backlot, with several recognizable streets and buildings, such as the big building seen in this photo, taken on a tour this spring.

Other guest stars include John Garfield (who can't carry a tune), Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Ida Lupino, George Tobias, Alan Hale (Sr.), Jack Carson, and Humphrey Bogart. Spike Jones and His City Slickers appear in a couple of numbers.

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS was directed by David Butler and filmed by Arthur Edeson.

The Blu-ray print is outstanding. The disc includes extras which were imported from the DVD release, including shorts, cartoons, a newsreel, and a radio show. All in all, despite the film's plot deficiencies, there is much to appreciate on this disc, and it's a "must buy" for those who love this era in Classic Hollywood. Kudos to the Warner Archive for putting this film out in such a beautiful print.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

Quick Preview of TCM in September

The September schedule was recently posted by Turner Classic Movies!

Susan Hayward will be the September Star of the Month, starting with BEAU GESTE (1939) on September 3rd. 28 Hayward films will be shown spread over four Thursday evenings in September. It's a great series with many excellent titles on the schedule.

On Tuesday evenings TCM will feature a series inspired by the book FIVE CAME BACK: A STORY OF HOLLYWOOD AND THE SECOND WORLD WAR by Mark Harris. The series will spotlight WWII documentaries by a variety of filmmakers, along with feature films by the five filmmakers chronicled in the book, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens, William Wyler, and Frank Capra.

There's also an unusual one-evening retrospective of James Dean's TV roles on shows such as STUDIO ONE, GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATER, and ROBERT MONTGOMERY PRESENTS.

Speaking of Robert Montgomery, I'm excited that TCM is showing two Robert Montgomery films which have long been on my wish list, SO THIS IS COLLEGE (1929) and VANESSA: HER LOVE STORY (1935).

Another notable screening is one of the hits of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival, Colleen Moore in WHY BE GOOD? (1929).

September tributes include Constance Bennett, W.C. Fields, Robert Wise, Anne Bancroft, John Wayne, Irene Dunne, and Conrad Veidt.

Themes include Westerns with "Kid" in the title, Mexico, college, and Agatha Christie.

As an aside, I note that there are a significant number of "newer" films airing in September, with over 30 films released after 1970. There are also a significant number of films from the '60s.

I'll have much more information on the September schedule posted around September 1st. In the meantime, Shirley Temple is the July Star of the Month, with the annual Summer Under the Stars Festival coming in August.

TCM Star of the Month: Shirley Temple

Monday evening Turner Classic Movies begins its tribute to the July Star of the Month, Shirley Temple.

19 Shirley Temple films will be shown on Monday evenings in July, spanning a 15-year period from 1934 to her last feature film in 1949.

The series kicks off on Monday evening, July 6th, with Shirley in the Damon Runyon tale LITTLE MISS MARKER (1934), costarring Adolphe Menjou.

That's followed by NOW AND FOREVER (1934) with Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard, BRIGHT EYES (1934) with James Dunn, CURLY TOP (1935) with John Boles and Rochelle Hudson, and POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL (1935) with Alice Faye.

Moving on to Monday, July 13th, there are a number of especially good Temple films. The night starts with STOWAWAY (1936) costarring Alice Faye and Robert Young, then moves on to John Ford's WEE WILLIE WINKIE (1937) costarring Victor McLaglen.

July 13th continues with HEIDI (1937), LITTLE MISS BROADWAY (1938), and A LITTLE PRINCESS (1939). WEE WILLIE WINKIE, HEIDI, and A LITTLE PRINCESS are among Temple's most iconic roles and the "must sees" of the evening.

July 20th features five films from Temple's teen years, starting with two outstanding films set on the WWII homefront, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) and I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944).

Next up on the 20th is the comedy HONEYMOON (1947), costarring Guy Madison and Franchot Tone, followed by THAT HAGEN GIRL (1947), an interesting drama with Ronald Reagan and Rory Calhoun. The evening concludes with Temple starring as another poor little rich girl, KATHLEEN (1941), costarring Herbert Marshall and Laraine Day.

The series concludes on Monday, July 27th, with the delightful comedy THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER (1947), also starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Rudy Vallee.

Shirley reunited with her '30s costar Robert Young in the period family drama ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE (1948). Also showing on the 27th: THE STORY OF SEABISCUIT (1949) with Lon McCallister and Barry Fitzgerald and A KISS FOR CORLISS (1949) with David Niven. A KISS FOR CORLISS is sometimes shown under the title ALMOST A BRIDE.

Curiously, one of Temple's very best movies, her second film with director John Ford, isn't on the schedule: FORT APACHE (1948). However, it's available on DVD.

Other key Temple films not showing on TCM this month, including THE LITTLEST REBEL (1935), CAPTAIN JANUARY (1936), REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM (1938), and SUSANNAH OF THE MOUNTIES (1939), are all available on DVD. The '30s films were all for 20th Century-Fox which are more expensive for TCM to license.

For more on TCM this month, please visit TCM in July: Highlights and TCM in July: Summer of Darkness, along with the TCM schedule.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

I spent part of Independence Day 2015 watching my first-ever Marvel superheroes movie, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011).

I became a bit curious about the series because the Marvel franchise is owned by Disney and the rest of my family enjoys the films. The WWII setting made CAPTAIN AMERICA a good entrance point for me into the Marvel world.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny young man who wants to join the army and fight for his country, but he's turned down as 4F. It's worth noting that Evans' thin appearance in the early scenes is thanks to CGI but that aspect is fairly seamless.

Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a U.S. government scientist, sees something special in Steve and not only gets him into the army, he also puts him into a top secret program. Steve is injected with a serum which makes him a "super soldier," ultimately known as Captain America.

Steve joins Col. Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) fighting a Nazi spinoff organization called HYDRA, headed by Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who (of course!) plans world domination.

The above is an attempt to describe a sprawling 124-minute film as succinctly as possible. The movie's running time is both a blessing and a curse; the movie is a bit too long, yet there is lots of back story and information missing. Viewers are told next to nothing about important characters like Carter and Stark; sure, there was a secret program underway but I would have loved to know what on earth a female British agent was doing commanding male troops in the U.S., let alone fighting in combat!

Of course, I went into this film with zero knowledge about Marvel superheroes, so it's possible some background info may have been absorbed by audiences elsewhere along the way.

Evans does a good job, successfully conveying the formerly short, insecure man who still exists inside a newly powerful body. He may be a superhero, but, among other things, he still doesn't know how to talk to women.

I also thought Atwell and Jones were excellent, and I enjoyed the bits of humor they added to the film. I also liked that Atwell's character was simultaneously feminine and tough. Atwell brings a fresh film persona and a unique character to the movie, which I appreciated.

The movie's biggest drawback is the lack of a good musical score. My husband calls the scores for these superhero movies "wallpaper," and he's right. You don't even notice the score is there. I can't help remembering how my friends and I left the theater humming John Williams' SUPERMAN (1978) theme when that movie came out; a top-drawer score can do so much to lift a film to another level of excitement, and that aspect was sadly missing here.

A side note, the final sequence has definite echoes of RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), what with the speeders in the forest and trying to break into a bunker. I later learned that the film's director, Joe Johnston, was the art director for RETURN OF THE JEDI so that seems to shed some light on the similarity!

All in all I thought CAPTAIN AMERICA was a pretty good film of its type; it had a solid story with humor mixed in, and it avoided taking its violence to a level I wouldn't want to watch. I also liked the WWII setting, although that won't be a factor in other Marvel films. I enjoyed the movie enough to be interested in watching the sequel, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014) or another film in the Marvel series. I'll also probably check out the AGENT CARTER TV series.

CAPTAIN AMERICA was directed by Joe Johnston and filmed by Shelly Johnson.

Parental Advisory: CAPTAIN AMERICA is rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action."

CAPTAIN AMERICA is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Tonight's Movie: That Other Woman (1942)

THAT OTHER WOMAN is a fun little "B" romance from 20th Century-Fox, starring James Ellison and Virginia Gilmore.

Emily Borden (Gilmore) works as the secretary to architect Henry Summers (Ellison), and she's pined after handsome, woman-chasing Henry for years.

Emily's Southern Grandma (Alma Kruger) comes up with a plan for Emily to capture Henry's attention by sending him anonymous notes from the "Pink Lady." The mysterious Pink Lady professes her admiration of Henry, and the plan is that, having caught Henry's notice at last, eventually Emily will reveal herself as the sender of the notes. However, matters end up spiraling out of control in ways that Emily and Grandma didn't anticipate.

Further complicating matters is Emily's Southern beau Ralph (Dan Duryea), who'd like to marry Emily himself. Ralph believes, with some cause, that Henry is a potential threat to Emily's reputation, not to mention his own hopes to marry Emily.

This is a cute little 75-minute movie directed by Ray McCarey. Its breezy, lightweight style and tone is fairly similar to other "B" romances McCarey directed for the same studio, such as THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE (1941) and THE PERFECT SNOB (1942).

Virginia Gilmore, previously seen in BERLIN CORRESPONDENT (1942), does a good job in the lead role. She reminded me uncannily, in both looks and voice, of Jane Greer, whose film career had not yet started. Rather surprisingly, Gilmore's film career petered out within a couple years of this film being released, though she continued to occasionally work in television; she married Yul Brynner in 1944 so perhaps she intentionally cut back on her career. It's a shame, as as I can imagine her being as effective a leading lady in film noir as Jane Greer.

I've always liked James Ellison, but I found Duryea's "other man" Southern gent more appealing! Duryea definitely ups the film's energy level in any scene he's in.

Having watched so many Dr. Kildare films in recent months, it was a lot of fun watching Alma Kruger as Emily's Grandma. Her performance in this gave me an appreciation for just how good an actress Kruger was, as the drawling Grandma is quite a different character from starchy Head Nurse Molly Byrd.

Curiously, Lon McCallister is sixth-billed yet I don't recall him or anyone by his character's name showing up on the film!

The supporting cast includes Janis Carter, George Chandler, Charles Arnt, Minerva Urecal, Paul Fix, Mike Mazurki, and Ann E. Todd.

The script for THAT OTHER WOMAN was by Jack Jungmeyer. It was filmed in black and white by Joseph McDonald.

THAT OTHER WOMAN is available on DVD in a lovely print from Fox Cinema Archives. Although some of the FCA DVD prints have been iffy, I've found the black and white films of the early '40s in this series generally look very good.

I rented the DVD from ClassicFlix.

Happy Independence Day!

Here's Ava Gardner in a patriotic pose, one of countless publicity photos she shot in the '40s and '50s.

May God continue to bless and protect our nation. Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Dr. Kildare's Victory (1942) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

DR. KILDARE'S VICTORY (1942) is a strong entry in MGM's long-running Dr. Kildare series. It was also Lew Ayres' ninth and final film in the series. All nine films are part of the Dr. Kildare Movie Collection from the Warner Archive.

Dr. Jimmy Kildare (Ayres) is still dealing with grief owing to the tragedy which befell him in DR. KILDARE'S WEDDING DAY (1941). He copes by burying himself in work, and in his free time he mentors a young doctor (Robert Sterling) and nurse (Jean Rogers) who want to get married.

Said doctor and nurse run afoul of regulations regarding the emergency room "territory" of Blair General Hospital and a neighboring hospital.

Meanwhile Dr. Kildare is wooed by flashy socialite patient Cookie Charles (Ann Ayars), who has fallen head over heels for the good doctor and won't take no for an answer.

There are some touching moments, but the film's overall mood is much lighter than in DR. KILDARE'S WEDDING DAY (1941), and there are some nice bits of comedy, with Dr. Carew (Walter Kingsford) and Nurse "Nosy" Parker (Nell Craig) having some amusing moments to shine.

Around this time Ayres became embroiled in controversy over his conscientious objector status. He had one other film released in 1942, FINGERS AT THE WINDOW (1942), and then was offscreen for the duration of the war, returning to films with THE DARK MIRROR (1946). During the war he served as a medic in the South Pacific as well as a chaplain's aide.

Ayars, made up to look somewhat like then still rising MGM actress Ava Gardner, comes on too strong, but Sterling and Rogers are an appealing young couple.

Regular cast members on hand include Alma Kruger, Frank Orth, Marie Blake, George Reed, Gus Schilling, Barbara Bedford, and Eddie Acuff. Familiar faces in the supporting cast include Louis Jean Heydt, Barry Nelson, Frank Faylen, Mary Field, and Edward Gargan.

DR. KILDARE'S VICTORY is unusual in that it was directed by W.S. Van Dyke, rather than Harold S. Buquet, and it also has a longer running time than most of the Kildare films, clocking in at 92 minutes.

The movie was filmed by William H. Daniels.

Previously reviewed films also available in the Warner Archive's Dr. Kildare Movie Collection: YOUNG DR. KILDARE (1938), CALLING DR. KILDARE (1939), THE SECRET OF DR. KILDARE (1939), DR. KILDARE'S STRANGE CASE (1940), DR. KILDARE GOES HOME (1940), DR. KILDARE'S CRISIS (1940), THE PEOPLE VS. DR. KILDARE (1941), and DR. KILDARE'S WEDDING DAY (1941).

The DR. KILDARE'S VICTORY DVD includes the trailer and an unaired pilot for a DR. KILDARE TV series starring Lew Ayres.

As I conclude watching this set, I highly recommend the Dr. Kildare Movie Collection which has provided many hours of most enjoyable entertainment.

Next we'll turn our attention to the Dr. Gillespie Movie Collection!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop. Please note that the initial sets of this series sold at the WBShop are traditionally replicated (pressed) rather than burned on demand.

Tonight's Movie: The Dark Horse (1932) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE DARK HORSE (1932) is a diverting pre-Code political comedy released last month by the Warner Archive.

Warren William, perhaps the greatest pre-Code scoundrel of them all, plays Hal Blake, a campaign manager so great at salesmanship that he's confident he can elect an utter nitwit, Zachary Hicks (Guy Kibbee), as governor.

Hicks is so dense that Blake says of him "Every time he opens his mouth he subtracts from the sum total of human knowledge." (That line alone might have made the movie worthwhile!) Despite that problem, Blake convinces the public that Hicks is a plainspoken "everyman," and he cements that impression with a campaign short on substance and long on photo ops. In that regard, the campaign doesn't seem so different from some which are run today!

Hal is aided by two assistants, Joe (Frank McHugh) and Kay (Bette Davis). Hal wants to marry Kay but she's convinced he only loves the thrill of the campaign and would become bored with her once he lands her. Case in point, Hal's ex-wife Maybelle (Vivienne Osborne), who is constantly hounding him for unpaid alimony.

THE DARK HORSE isn't a top-flight film, but it's entertaining enough, and it's rather fascinating how much of it still seems relevant over 80 years later.

The movie is also a good example of pre-Code style, blatantly cynical and ever so slightly raunchy.

William is terrific in a role which seems tailor made for him. He has a great scene where he realizes the opposing candidate has cribbed the same Lincoln speech he'd planned for Hicks to recite, and after a moment of panic that the addle-brained Hicks will have nothing to say, he solves the problem by exposing the other man's plagiarism, avoiding any need for Hicks to speak at all!

I always enjoy seeing Davis's early work at Warner Bros., when she wasn't yet a "diva" but was nonetheless a fresh and interesting personality. She has the chance to play a woman as quick-thinking as her boss, who sees an opening for him to take the campaign job and helps make it happen -- despite the fact that Hal is in jail due to falling behind on his alimony! She loves Hal yet is clear-eyed about his flaws, and for most of the movie has no intention of marrying him, another "pre-Code" aspect of the film.

I confess Kibbee isn't one of my favorite character actors; when he puts the moves on pre-Code ladies, as he does in this film, I cringe, though that was probably the intended effect! While there are many actors I enjoy more, he was good at what he did, and he's perfectly cast in the title role.

McHugh is a welcome supporting player, and he's backed by familiar faces such as Robert Emmett O'Connor, Robert Warwick, and Berton Churchill. Louise Beavers turns up in a scene as Kay's maid; was it only in the movies that someone making a secretary's pay could afford a maid?!

THE DARK HORSE was directed by Alfred E. Green and filmed by Sol Polito. It runs 75 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print, especially considering the film's age. The DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.