Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Thanks, Ward."

The gorgeous poster pictured above of 1931's Sob Sister can be had here for $1100 and that's on the lower end of the price scale...

Sometimes the cranky old-timers at Film Forum really get on my nerves with their loud shhssing of other moviegoers that tends to draw more attention than the initial chatter that prompted said outburst. That said, it's only at a theater like Film Forum, with its uber-knowledgeable constituency, that the biggest laugh in a comic film comes when an unbilled, very young Ward Bond, playing a cop, is referred to as "Ward" by the actor playing the police dispatcher. I guffawed like an idiot for a good 40 seconds after that line.

Apart from that, the film, Sob Sister, was a very enjoyable pre-Coder that straddles that interesting line between drama and comedy in the way that it seems only pre-Code films do. Stars Linda Watkins--where has she been all my life?--and James Dunn, an alcoholism casualty who won a late-career Academy Award, are a wonderful as dueling reporters, he, for a high-end rag, and she, the "sob sister" of the title, for a tabloid. She wants to get out of the racket and settle down with Dunn while he believes her to be an unrepentant sob sister who is only out to get a good story and who would quickly become bored with marriage.

One of my favorite parts of watching these early talkies is being introduced to the many fine and, often, gorgeous actresses who populated so many of them and then disappeared, for the most part, by the dawn of the '40s. Watkins was one who wasn't in too many films even in this "prime" period--she was a stage actress first. But, here she is delightful and shares one of those, "only in a pre-Code" moments with co-star Dunn, when they very matter-of-factly discuss their intimate time together the night before. Dunn accuses Watkins of sleeping with him only so should could get her hands on a diary, that Dunn has procured, which holds the key to a breaking front page story. In the past Dunn probably would have been right, but in this case Watkins gave herself to him out of love.

The print shown at Film Forum was advertised as a new 35mm print...sure would be nice if it became available on some home format, even a DVD-R program, if Fox ever develops its own Warner Archive-type enterprise.

One of the other films on the same bill was Columbia's Final Edition starring two of my favorites of the era, Pat O'Brien and Mae Clarke. Many in the audience were chattering after the show about the film's use of two drug references no one else seemed to remember in another pre-Code: "Heroin" and "coked-up." I heard one audience member theorize that things like this were more likely to fly at a lower-end studio such as Columbia than at an MGM.

No comments: