The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
The form is generally that of an Astaire-Rogers romance. The screenplay adds to the poetry of World War I in the light of its resumption.
The Yama Yama Man and the demon barber of The Hen Pecks are show figures left behind for the Café de Paris and national fame. Germany declares war, Vernon (an Englishman) dances with the Royal Flying Corps in travesty and dies instructing fighter pilots in Texas.
The main gag material is the reconstruction of Castle dancing styles, built on the Castle Walk and characterized by changeups without modulation, articulated with cadential kicks and flicks.
Edna May Oliver contrasts perfectly with Walter Brennan.
The greatest revelation comes with Vernon descending to the airfield while another pilot takes off illicitly. A collision is averted, but Vernon stalls and crash-lands in a nosedive, ending the career of the flying ace.
Critics being what they are, the love story in a comedy never interests them, and so they get a complete education here, as if that were possible.
Olsen & Johnson are filming their show in Hollywood, it takes place in Hell, nothing but immemorial gags and “the cacodemons of carnal pain” until the director hires a writer to add the requisite amour. This script is imaginatively projected for them on the set to inspect and admire.
Impoverished playwright and rich girl (aspiring actress with her own outdoor theater, “we’re disgustingly rich”) love each other, rich guy is promised her hand, Olsen & Johnson help out, there’s a phony Russian prince who isn’t and a jive-jumpin’ gal who’s crazy for him, all these details are important.
And this is the actual film, though critics ever since have denied it, and T.S. of the New York Times denounced the entire production as beneath his dignity.
The great, powerful surrealism flows from burlesque through silent comedy and the sound stage and includes the projection booth famously, from another angle yet, it comes down to the private dick “unzipping” the comics, who ride off on pigs (how the other half lives).
Blake Edwards and Mel Brooks are among the disciples. The tempo is incredibly fast and demands the greatest attention.
The Farmer’s Daughter
Potter opens, after the credits on a signboard, with a crudely painted scene of a farm, and pulls back to show it’s just been painted on the side of a real barn. Katrin is off to nursing school in Capital City, and the sign painter gives her a ride so she can save money. At the Best Rest Auto Court, he pretends to be stalled, but she puts her foot down on the gas and they take off in reverse, smashing his Jeep. She’s forced to spend the night, and spend all her money on the repairs as a loan.
She hitchhikes into town and finally finds him. “I ain’t in the phone book,” he says grinning. She can whistle for her money. It’s Election Day, people are lining up to vote. She takes a job as a maid, and as it happens her employer is a Congressman.
While serving that night, she hears another politician described as “second-rate”. “Oh no,” she chimes in, “he was first-rate, with a second-rate party.” Joseph Cotten has a great little scene of waking up on a cold morning, a modern-day Thom. Jefferson.
They discuss a “living wage”, and skate on the pond. She’s taking college courses at night, including public speaking, so the butler asks her to read an old speech given by the Congressman’s father, a Senator. Potter pulls back to fill the room with her imaginary audience, as the butler takes his seat at the far end. The butler is Charles Bickford at his most refined or nearly, Loretta Young’s performance is easily the most demanding among her many brilliant roles, because she has to read this speech about a truth-telling country doctor as if she were not a politician nor an actress, and read it well, with a Swedish accent. It ends with an apotheosis of Woodrow Wilson and his League of Nations, and she reads it most movingly.
A fellow Congressman has died, and the party discusses a new candidate. Katrin has her opinions, or rather she knows a thing or two about the political figures in her state. The Congressman works on a speech while lying on a sofa with a writing board (the dictionary rests on the arm of the sofa). She tells him their candidate is no good, he cut off “free milk to schoolchildren”, for example. Their romance is visibly at an end when she walks out leaving him to stare after her and pour coffee on his cake.
The political rally is very strong. The crowd is exuberant. “These days they yell for anything,” says the butler, so he stands up on a dare and yells, “fish for sale!” The crowd cheers. The candidates are seen in brief excerpts from their speeches, talking nonsense and gibberish—literally gibberish. “My record’s my platform,” says the candidate, but Katrin rises to question him from her notes on nepotism and negligence, creating a sensation and making the news. How can the Congressman fire her? “They’ll call me a Fascist!”
The opposition party mulls her over. “I don’t know anything about her, except sometimes you can get lucky and put over a freak.” What’s her idea of a representative? “Someone who represents” the people. She’s the new candidate, and her campaign looks like The Candidate until the Congressman and her brothers eject her trainer. Don’t do “bad imitations of a lot of bad speechmakers,” she’s told, “be yourself.” She resumes her speech on the “power and right” to vote not ranting anymore, but straightforward.
The sign painter turns up at her opponent’s headquarters to tell a dirty tale and collect some money. “What kind of a campaign do you think we’re running here,” he’s asked, and out he goes. But the candidate has no compunctions. The Congressman threatens to quit the party and they let him go.
The phony story hits the papers, and Katrin goes home. The Congressman follows her there, and her father gives her a talking to. “I thought Katrin was married to the truth,” he says. “Woman or man, if you don’t want to fight for the truth, you don’t belong in Congress.” They go back to Capital City.
The opposition candidate has the sign painter in “protective custody” at the lodge run by his “national organization”, which is “undercover for a while” with its “great plan to educate the public” on the meaning of “100% Americanism,” i.e., “white, not foreign-born, and of the right religion.” The butler boots him out, gathers up his hat and throws it after him. “You forgot your hood!”
The Congressman and Katrin’s brothers go to the lodge, where the candidate’s thugs have the sign painter tied to a chair and gagged. There is a fight, and one of the brothers dives off a second-story landing like Olivier in the last scene of Hamlet a year later.
The sign painter gives a true account on the radio, and the newspapers report “BOTH PARTIES ENDORSE KATIE”.
He had been told, “once a member of the organization, always a member of the organization. I knew what would happen if I didn’t obey.”
Katrin’s elected, she and the Congressman are married, and he carries her over the threshold into the House.
A wild film by the director of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and The Time of Your Life. The plush settings cushion the sharp ideas, the performances couldn’t be better, and Ethel Barrymore was never more like Barbara Bush.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
The opening scene reveals a certain perfectionism amid the overcrowded New York apartment (it appears here and there, when Mrs. Blandings delivers her color scheme, for instance). The rest is careless enough to find the true foundations that are Tesander and Gussie.
Small details are to be found in the racy script. Simms’ analysis of the flower sink develops into Gen. Turgidson’s report to the President.
The Time of Your Life
A San Francisco bar, Nick’s.
Eugene O’Neill had the same idea at the same time, The Iceman Cometh.
Mark Twain strides in, among the characters, one of his characters.
It has a structure, most definitely, it’s the same theme as Ford’s Wagon Master, for example, if you extrapolate the Christian charity for the nonce.
Why should the bar be clean, and everything else filthy?
Nick will have it so, it’s the whole cockamamie world of Valéry’s parasites versus a gangster and his torture chamber.
Crowther of the New York Times was successfully bored by the film and the play.
Variety didn’t get it either, nor TIME, nor Halliwell.