Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Old Timey Movies!

I've also been on a 1930s kick lately, which I can only imagine has been prompted by the worldwide financial collapse I've been convinced was coming most of my adult life (yes, I'm one of those people that has an irrational Depression-phobia and is convinced the next Big One is coming in her lifetime -- perhaps there's a word for that?) and what better to go with a downturn than Jimmy Cagney ... and Al Jolson!

Last week I watched a strange little musical called Hallelujah, I'm A Bum! starring Jolson, Frank Morgan and Harry Langdon as a communist trash-collector who berates all the bums living in Central Park. Frank Morgan plays the mayor of New York who loses his girl to amnesia when, distraught after a lovers' spat, she jumps off a bridge in the park. The girl is promptly saved by Jolson, who fishes her out of the drink (and who happens to be buddies with the surprisingly egalitarian mayor). The girl and Jolson fall in love, but complications, of course, ensue. Aside from its very unusual class consciousness, the film is distinguished by tinny musical numbers and a very sad penultimate scene which every guy who's ever lost a girl to a mayor can understand. It's unremarkable for its casual 1930s racism, which made me feel sorry for poor Edgar Connor who played Jolson's sidekick, Acorn, and the inevtiable facial cramps one must get from all that damn grinning.

My other noteworthy 1930s comedy was Jimmy the Gent, starring James Cagney and Bette Davis, pre-code goodness that's eminently quotable, including such gems as:

"What would you do for $500?"
"I'd do my best!"

One of the film geeks in my shabby little office likes to say that James Cagney is one of the few actors that justified the use of sound in motion pictures, and I'd like to respectfully agree with her.

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Stay tuned for further posts in which I talk about the unmitigated delight of reading Chelsea Handler's latest opus, "Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea," and Josef von Sternberg's utterly insane memoir, Fun In A Chinese Laundry. Plus pictures!

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