Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ten Thousand Words

More or less, I'm guessing until the end of Bad Apple.  But I make no guesses how many days that is.

On the topic of movies I love to pieces, I would like to mention a movie I had never heard of until about 2 years ago.  Star of Midnight was released in 1935.  I have no idea when it was made.  It looks like 1933 to me.  The sets, the clothing, the film stock just doesn't look later than '33 but I can't find much background information about it.  It was made from a novel of the time which when I looked on abebooks was priced at about $40.  I did not buy it.  I'm sure it's not good enough to warrant that price tag.

We all know I think William Powell is terrific, could be the best actor in his genre ever.  He plays an attorney, Clay Dalzell.  Ginger Rogers (also a giveaway to the date of this film because she  looks quite young and fresh) plays an heiress, Donna Mantin.  The machinery of the story is that some singer in Chicago suddenly disappears, leaving her fiance in the lurch.  A year later he shows up on Clay's doorstep missing his Alice.  Smack us upside the head, Alice is now on Broadway, incognito as the star of a play titled Midnight.  And there are a couple murders.  So that part is really death.

What makes this a wonderful movie is the interplay between Donna and Clay, called Dal throughout the film.  Their backstory is that he's substantially older than she is.  When Donna was 11 she ran away from home, arrived at his apartment with the announcement that she was going to marry him.  Now we're at least 10 years later and Donna hasn't changed her mind.  Dal is a playboy and obviously has no intention of settling down.  Donna is the beautiful gal about town yet she can't help herself.

Dal:  Did you tell the gossip columnist that we were engaged?
Donna:  Certainly.

They are too terrific together.  Two masterful actors with good lines can make magic and they do.  The rest is passingly entertaining.

Ralph Morgan (the Wizard of Oz's brother in real life) plays the villain as always.  J. Farrell MacDonald does a fine turn as the lead detective.  You won't understand why the butler looks so suspicious all the time, no one ever has.  The point of this movie is the love story.

IIRC, the NYT review at the time said it was a knockoff of the early Thin Man movie.  No no no.  This is far superior to the Thin Mans if you care about the relationship between the lead characters.  There is, for me maybe you don't agree, no heat or passion between Nick and Nora Charles.  I understand that's heresy.  The URST--unresolved sexual tension--between Donna and Dal is sky high. By the time the lights are turned off, you're shouting "What do you mean we can't go in the bedroom with them?!"

No comments: