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Un regista sempre attento ai risvolti sociali e proveniente dal vaudeville,
Mervyn Le Roy diresse alcuni dei film più crudi ed emozionanti degli
anni '30, amaramente pessimisti.
After the melodrama Gentleman's Fate (1931),
Five Star Final (1931), his first major film,
was a bitter and scathing indictment of cynical newspapers
(all the reporters and the editor are either scoundrels of idiots).
This film also includes a scene with split screen (each half showing one
of the two people who are talking on the phone).
The publisher of a newspaper is not happy with the sales and asks his chief
editor, Joseph (Edward Robinson), to cover a sensational story about a
20-year-old scandal instead of the highbrow stories that Joseph likes.
Joseph's secretary knows that the boss is after sexy girls: he just fired an
employee because she had flat breast and now is hiring a
vain and arrogant blonde, Judy, just because she's sexy. It sounds like
the secretary is secretely in love with her boss.
The scandal was about a secretary, Nancy, who fell in love with her boss,
got pregnant and killed him. She was acquitted because of the illegitimate
child. The publisher sees the story as a moral warning to all secretaries
in the nation: don't fall in love with your boss.
Now the child is a young beautiful girl, Jenny, engaged to the boy
of a wealthy family, Philip.
Joseph puts one of his reporters, Isopod (Boris Karloff),
in charge of investigating the girl.
Nancy has started a respectable family under a different name,
and is now married to a faithful and
devoted Michael, who has forgiven her past; but Nancy is afraid that Jenny
might find out that Michael is not her real father, and wonders how Philip
would react if he found out that he is marrying an illegitimate daughter.
Isopod pretends to be a priest and obtains a private meeting with Jenny.
Philip and Jenny read in the newspaper of the forthcoming series on the old
scandal, not knowing how close it is to them. Nancy is terrified.
Isopod, disguised as a reverend, meets with Nancy and her husband,
and fools them into giving him a photo of Jenny.
They trust the reverend and tell him the truth hoping to get advice from him.
It's the eve of the wedding. They realize too late that they were talking to
a false reverend.
Back at the newspaper the secretary is drunk and tells Joseph what she thinks:
that he should be ashamed of ruining the life of an innocent girl.
But he is indifferent. The story is printed. Nancy sees it. The parents of
Philip see it too and go to talk to Nancy and her husband to stop the marriage.
It's the day of the wedding and the bride and the groom are still unaware of
what is going on.
Nancy calls the publisher for a desperate plea, but the publisher refuses to
talk to her. Joseph takes the call and tells her that there is nothing he can
do to stop the press. His secretary is ashamed of him.
Nancy, devastated, commits suicide. When her husband finds her body,
he hides it from Jenny and Philip. He sends them to the church where the
ceremony is scheduled to take place. Then he too takes his life.
A female reporter from the newspaper shows up with a photographer. Not getting
any answer, they break into the apartment from the window. Finding the dead
bodies, they immediately start taking pictures and call Joseph. Joseph
stops the press and starts work on a special edition. Neither feels any
compassion or guilt for the dead couple.
In a few hours the newspaper boys are all over town selling the special edition.
Jenny finally learns all the truth. Philip's parents want the marriage canceled,
but Philip decides to go ahead with it. Philip insults his parents and
they leave without a word.
Later that night Joseph has to get drunk in order to forget that he is
responsible for the suicide.
When he sobers up, he is determined to drop the story. However, the executives
of the newspaper want to cash in on the suicides too:
Isopod is ready to write a series claiming to be Nancy's authorized biography,
and the publisher is ready to pay a hefty sum to Jenny to get her approval.
Joseph is disgusted. Just then Jenny shows up and faces
Joseph, the publisher and Isopod. She asked them in tears
why they killed her mother. The publisher and Isopod stutter, but Joseph tells
her flatly that they did it to increase the circulation.
Philip arrives just in time to stop Jenny who has pulled out a gun.
Philip promises to kill them if they ever print Jenny's name again.
Joseph resigns. His secretary smiles and follows him.
the noir Two Seconds (1932)
A group of men are waiting to witness the execution of a criminal,
John (Edward Robinson). The executioner tells them that it takes about two
seconds between the moment the current is activated and the moment the brain
dies; two seconds during which he will have time to relive his entire life.
John is escorted into the room and the execution proceeds. During those two
seconds a flashback shows how he ended up on the electric chair.
John is a blue-collar worker, spending his days with his buddy and housemate
skyscrapers under construction. John is still single. Bud is getting married,
but John has no girlfriend.
John is actually wiser than Bud, a womanizer and a gambler.
He wins money betting on horses and immediately thinks of spending it all
on girls, despite being engaged. When the fiance shows up, Bud decides to
spend the money on another bet. Meanwhile, John enters a dancehall and meets
Shirley, one of the girls paid to dance with the male customers.
The next dance Shirley is molested by her dancing partner and the naive John
comes to her rescue.
The manager of the dancehall, Tony, expects girls to be more tolerant of
aggressive customers and fires Shirley.
Broke and unemployed, Shirley eyes John, obviously honest and hard-working
and with a good salary. She tells him she wants to go back to school to get
a degree and he falls for it. Back at home the experienced Bud warns John
that he's dating a scheming woman, not an innocent kid.
With the excuse of going to the library,
Shirley instead takes the naive John to a bar where she gets him drunk
and then to a friendly justice of the peace who marries them.
When the married couple walk into John's home, Bud has a big argument with
Shirley, guessing what truly happened. Shirley is determined to stay and Bud
moves out. When they meet at work, Bud tries to open John's eyes, but John
is still gullible. John even believes that she goes to the movies when she
leaves the house when in fact she meets her old lover Tony. When Bud shouts to
him the truth, John pushes him down the scaffolding to his death.
Remorseful and haunted by guilt, John loses his job and can't find another one.
They are broke. Shirley pays rent with the money she got from Tony, because
she went back to work for him. Now John realizes that Bud was telling him the
truth. Shirley also reveals that Bud's fiance, desperate for work, has been
asking her to get her a job at the dancehall. Hearing that his friend's honest
girl is now willing to become a tramp like Shirley, John cries bitter tears.
He bets on horses and wins a fortune. He decides to use the money to pay back
Tony of the money he has given to Shirley. He finds them kissing. John gives
the money to Tony and then kills Shirley. At the trail he refuses to defend
himself and is sentenced to the electric chair.
Page Miss Glory (1935)
A provincial girl arrives in the big city and asks for the best hotel.
Initially mistaken for a guest, she is just looking for a job as a chambermaid.
One day Loretta is cleaning the room of two gentlemen who have not paid the
bill for a while, Click and Ed. Loretta is afraid that they are starving to
death so she feeds them dog food. Ed's smart girlfriend Gladys visits them.
Flipping through a magazine, Click sees an ad of an agency that is willing to
pay a fortune for the most beautiful woman in the nation.
He has an idea to win: have Ed, who is a professional photographer,
create the picture of
an inexistent woman by picking the best body parts of famous movie stars.
Meanwhile Loretta is madly in love with a celebrity, Bingo, a famous stunt pilot
who just flew to Africa upside down. Sure enough Bingo decides to stay at that
hotel and Loretta meets him in person.
It turns out he's a friend of Click. While chatting with him, Bingo sees
a picture of Dawn and falls in love with her.
Click and Ed are about to be evicted from the hotel when the radio announces
that their imaginary Dawn has won the contest and therefore the prize.
Bingo flies another impossible mission. The radio interviews him when he
lands and he tells the whole world that he loves Dawn and wants to marry her.
The press goes berserk trying to interview this Dawn, and Click has to find
excuses. He has another idea: he has chambermaid Loretta talk into the
telephone, connected to national radio, pretending she is Dawn.
The whole nation hears Dawn accept Bingo's marriage proposal.
The newspapers compete for an interview with Dawn, offering more and more money
A reporter, Slattery, pays an elderly woman to pretend she is Dawn's mother,
hoping that Click will let her see Dawn, but the plan fails. Slattery then
investigates Click's past, trying to find something with which to blackmail him.
Meanwhile, Bingo keeps declaring his love for Dawn (literally) on the air.
At the hairdresser Loretta boasts that she is Dawn's personal chambermaid,
and pays to get Dawn's hair style.
Cornered by Slattery who has found out about his past scams and threatens to
call the police, Click tells him the truth: that Dawn doesn't exist. But
Slattery does not believe him and is ready to call the police.
Gladys then has the idea to have Loretta impersonate Dawn. It works: the press,
ecstatic, is finally allowed to talk with the famous beauty. And Bingo can
finally see his fiance in person. Slattery, satisfied that he gets a
person-to-person interview with Dawn, keeps his end of the bargain, so Click
and Ed can continue the charade and make money out of the chambermaid turned
Unbeknownst to all of them, two thugs have dug a whole in the ceiling of the
hotel room and are eavesdropping from the room upstairs. They therefore find
out that Dawn is a scam.
Meanwhile Dawn has found out the hard way that the life of a star is no fun
at all: she has no freedom anymore, as Click controls her every movement.
The two thugs have been paid by one of the publishers to kidnap Dawn.
They increase the amount they want and the publisher calls off the deal.
They then decide to blackmail Click. Click accepts to pay but wants them to
kidnap Bingo, who keeps trying to break into the room to elope with Dawn,
a fact that would put an end to the business.
Ed takes the innocent Dawn for a ride and kisses her. Then he locks her up
in the hotel room. But the chambermaid opens it and Dawn/Loretta recognizes
her best friend. Loretta tells her friend the truth and then asks her to
Meanwhile, a jealous Gladys brings the money to the gangsters but suggests that they
kidnap Dawn instead of Bingo, as they originally planned, offering them
Bingo finally makes it to Dawn's room and romances her.
Ed, who is also in love with Dawn, arrives and finds them together.
Dawn, tired of the fiction, confesses to Bingo that she is not Dawn but
Loretta. Bingo is still willing to marry her.
Right then the thugs enter the room with a gun, and kidnap Dawn putting
her into a trunk. Bingo chases them and finds them just when Click accepts
to pay them to release Dawn. When Click opens the trunk in front of the press,
one of the thugs is inside: Bingo freed Dawn and locked the thug in the trunk.
Bingo and Loretta are happily flying away over the big city to their honeymoon.
and the historical costume drama
Anthony Adverse (1936), adapted from Hervey Allen's novel, he
crafted one of the most influential gangster films, Little Caesar (1937).
Little Caesar (1937), from the novel of W.R. Burnett, è un gangster di origine italiana che
diventa l'imperatore di Chicago sconfiggendo le bande rivali ma alla fine muore
sotto i colpi della polizia.
Liberamente ispirato alla leggenda vivente di Al Capone, il film è
più attento a mostrare le rudi e selvagge abitudini dei gangster che a
seguire una trama definita. Mentre Arthur Robinson compie la sua ascesa dai
bassifondi ai palazzi del centro, si assiste alla rapina a un veglione di
capodanno, a rapporti omosessuali fra il boss e il suo pistolero, e fra il
bandito e l'amico ballerino, a scene familiari con una piagnucolosa madre
italiana, e ovviamente a molteplici sfoggi di arroganza e virilità.
La narrazione secca e nervosa restituisce all'epopea il carattere crudo e
attuale della lotta per la sopravvivenza. Il gangster è sempre circondato
dal vuoto, per cui fin dall'inizio è destinato a precipitare; trascorre
gli ultimi anni come un vagabondo ubriacone.
Questo film di
Leroy segna la nascita del gangster sociologico, laddove i precursori,
Sternberg e Mamoulian in testa, si erano preoccupati soltanto del lato
High Pressure (1932), based on Aben Kandel's play "Hot Money" (1931),
Someone is desperately looking for a man named Gar.
They finally find him drunk and unconscious in a bar.
An old colonel wants to organize a corporation to manufacture
the invention of a German scientist that would turn sewage into rubber.
The entrepreneur has been told that Gar is the man who can help him
gather the necessary investors.
Gar begs his best friend Mike to mediate with his fiance Francine, who has been
waiting for five years for Gar to propose and has finally decided to dump
him for a South American suitor.
Gar instructs the colonel to open two bank accounts, so he can deposit
money into one every day by drawing from the other one.
Gar appoints his friend Clifford, who is broke after their last scheme
collapsed, to president of the company.
Then Gar talks the landlord of an office space to cut the rent in half in
exchange for the "prestige" of hosting their new company.
He then hires as salesman a clueless boy who just happens to have a famous
last name. He hires a secretary and then her boyfriend Jeffrey, who works
for a lousy newspaper. And so forth. His bluff and his charm work: they
find plenty of people willing to invest.
Amazed by his success, Francine goes back to him, although she knows well
that he is a scoundrel. There's a small problem: nobody can find the inventor
anymore. The investors are getting impatient. An investigation is launched
into the shady company, just minutes after Gar has been forced to accept
an investment from his poor secretary. Hearing that the secretary is now
broke, Francine leaves him again.
Rudolf, the inventor, finally shows up, but Gar himself realizes that his
university title is worthless. When they put him in the laboratory, they
realize he is just a poor madman. Gar is facing jail when a representative
for a large rubber conglomorate makes him an offer to buy the company,
pay all investors and even give you a bonus. The only catch is that Gar
has to surrender the majority of the company, which he has gifted to Francine
to prove his love for her (when he thought the company was worth nothing).
Gar rushes to the pier where Francine is about to board a ship to South
America. They find her in time, Gar wins her back, and the company is saved.
They are still walking on the pier when an inventor approaches Gar, and Gar
is ready to launch a new scheme.
I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932) è uno dei primi film di
Un reduce della Grande Guerra che ha cercato di evadere
dalla routine piccolo-borghese abbandonando l'ambiente affettuoso ma anche
oppressivo della famiglia (Paul Muni) ed è. Diventato invece un
disoccupato vagabondo viene coinvolto suo malgrado in una rapina e condannato
ai lavori forzati in una colonia penale che si rivela l'anticamera dell'inferno;
dove vige un'irreggimentazione ben più ferrea di quella da lui
aborrita nella fabbrica (si spacca pietre incatenati sotto il sole rovente, chi cede viene frustato la sera).
Evade, trova un lavoro da manovale, si ricostruisce una vita e pian piano diventa qualcuno; ma la donna
che l'ha aiutato con la forza della disperazione ora lo ricatta, vuole che la sposi e poi gli dilapida i
risparmi, e, quando lui s'innamora di un'altra, non esita a denunciarlo.
La stampa insorge contro il suo
arresto, denunciando le condizioni disumane del carcere e additando ad esempio le opere di ingegneria
civile (ponti e strade) che si devono a lui.
Le autorità gli promettono allora la grazia se
sconterà volontariamente altri tre mesi, con la garanzia che sarà trattato con tutti i
riguardi, ma nel penitenziario non vedono l'ora di dargli una solenne lezione per la sua evasione e per la
campagna contro la loro crudeltà. I carcerieri fanno a gara in brutalità.
fiducioso, ma quando si rende conto di essere stato ingannato e che non uscirà mai da quel carcere
con le buone, al limite della resistenza umana tenta una nuova fuga, uccidendo due poliziotti. Braccato,
passa a salutare la sua ragazza in un vicolo buio per l'ultima volta, confessando che adesso per vivere deve
rubare veramente. E scompare nella tenebra.
Muni fa saltare un ponte con la dinamite e riesce a far perdere le tracce.
che lo perseguita riesce a farne un criminale, ladro e assassino.
Nel film la doppia accusa contro la
giustizia e il carcere si accompagna alla descrizione di un'altra vita che prima
sale e poi precipita, di un'altra disperata selvaggia lotta per la
sopravvivenza. Il gangster, cresciuto in quel campo di concentramento che
è il ghetto degli immigrati aveva seguito una parabola molto simile.
L'evaso e il gangster sono entrambi delle vittime e degli eroi, degli individui
che riescono a farsi largo nonostante partano svantaggiati e nonostante debbano
vincere una agguerrita concorrenza. I loro aguzzini (giudici e poliziotti) sono
stupidi, vigliacchi, corrotti e spietati.
Le Roy diresse anche drammi realisti.
Big City Blues (1932) is a thriller.
su un provinciale che arriva entusiasta a New York ma
vi fa ritorno deluso tre giorni dopo, reduce da un'ingiusta accusa di omicidio
They Won't Forget (1937), based on Ward Greene's "Death in the Deep
South" which was based on a famous case, is a powerful haringue against racism
and a fresco of violent prevarication against the weak and the innocent.
Old soldiers of the South are preparing to march to celebrate the "memorial day"
of the South, which is not the same as the one celebrated in the nation at large.
A teacher in a college for ladies is carrying out his lesson as usual. Two
of his pupils are fond of him, and one, Mary, openly flirts with him.
The other one, Imogene, is jealous.
The principal walks into the class and orders it dismissed, reproaching the
teacher, a yankee from the North, for not knowing that it's a holiday in the South.
Mary and Imogene are best friends and make no mystery of their passion for
the teacher, Robert.
Mary has a date with a boy, Joe. The parade is already underway.
The governor is in one car with his wife. An envious politician, Andy, is
riding in another car, telling his companion that he hopes in a major event that
would make him famous like the beloved governor.
Mary walks back to school because she has forgotten her purse.
Only the black janitor is inside the building.
Mary hears steps approaching.
(The camera did not show the actual murder and probable rape).
Not finding Mary, her friend Joe would like to search the school, but
Robert is coming out of the school and tells him that the school is closed
for the holiday.
Robert walks home to his affectionate wife. She notices the scent of perfume
on him, and that he is worried, and a stain on his coat.
They made sacrifices to move to this Southern
town, hoping in a bright future.
The town's reporter Bill is visiting his friends at the police station and
complaining that nothing exciting happens in that town to allow him to write
the articles he's capable of.
The black janitor finds the body of Mary and is shaken with fear, assuming
that they will accuse a black man like him of the brutal crime.
Sure enough his brothers are ready to lynch the black man, but Andy is in
charge of the investigation and wants to gather more data: he wants a bigger
story, not just another black man accused of rape and murder.
Joe tells Andy that he saw Robert leaving the school, while Imogene tells
the reporter that Mary was fond of Robert. Andy has found the scapegoat that he
was looking for, and Bill found the big story that he was looking for.
Meanwhile Robert is planning to take a job in another school in another city.
When the cops come to summon him for the interrogation, they find a letter
that reveals his plan and the coat with the stain.
Andy puts him under arrest. His wife Sybil learns it from the reporters who flood
her house. The woman faints and the reporters waste no time searching their
apartment while she is unconscious. And the press does not hesitate to distort
her words to imply that Robert hated the South and was planning to flee.
Robert's wife Sybil hires a detective from the North to carry out a fair
investigation. The black janitor is still in jail and his attorney tells him
that the detective from the North will try to place the blame on him in order
to save Robert. The janitor is scared.
The detective tells Robert that the evidence against him is weak: his main
enemy is the public opinion, that the press has turned against Robert.
A key witness, the barber who shaved Robert on the day of the murder, refuses
to cooperate. The detective is beaten by a mob because he doesn't give up.
The case is now a national sensation, and a famous attorney from the North,
Michael, accepts to to defend Robert at the trial.
Bill is delighted by how the case keeps getting bigger.
When Robert's mother arrives by train, she is immediately exposed to the
atmosphere of hatred that the press has created. The famous attorney has to
be escorted by the police lest a mob would lynch him.
The influential citizens of the city are now afraid by the clamor that the
case has created, but Andy tells them that it's too late to undo what has
been done with their complicity.
At the trail every witness makes Robert look bad. The attorney tries in vain
to prove that they are not credible. The barber lies that he never saw Robert.
The black janitor has been instructed to lie that he saw Robert alone
in the classroom, but then breaks down and recants when the attorney
pressures him. All to no avail: a rowdy crowd hails Andy's closing argument.
The jury withdraws to deliberate. The one juror who has doubts receives
a death threat. The jury finds Robert guilty and he is sentenced to death.
The good governor intervenes and commutes Robert's death sentence to life
imprisonment, but this only arouses the anger of the townfolks.
Mary's brothers take the law into their hands: while Robert is being
transferred to prison, they stop the train, take Robert and hang him.
The case has made Andy famous and a hero. He is running for senator.
Andy sent her a cheque to buy her silence, but Sybil throws it back at him.
Andy pledges to prosecute the men who lynched Robert, but she accuses him,
Sybil tells him that his own conscience will haunt him for the rest of his
life, no matter how successful he will be.
When she leaves, Andy cynically wonders whether Robert was really guilty.
The film is an indictment of prejudice, a sin that recurs twice (against the
negro and against the northerner). LeRoy completely avoids the three
stereotypes (the thriller, the detective movie and the court drama)
that would be natural given the premises. He doesn't even tell us who the
killer is. Technically, we are not even shown any evidence that the protagonist
is innocent. That is besides the point.
A teacher from the North teaches to women of the South. People despise him
for being a northerner, except one of his students who falls in love with him.
While the whole town is watching the memorial-day parade (during which an
ambitious prosecutor tells his friend that he is desperately looking for a
major case to become famous and start a political career), the girl walks back
into the building to retrieve something she forgot. The girl is murdered,
and the only witness is the negro janitor who saw her walk in, and later
sees the teacher walk out of the building. The teacher walks home, and tells
his loving wife how uncomfortable he feels that he is not familiar with
The town takes for granted that the negro killed her, but the prosecutor,
who senses his chance, wants real justice and starts investigating.
Once he learns about the girl's crush for the teacher,
an ambitious reporter, who has been waiting all his life for something to
happen in that quiet city, cooks up an exciting story about the murder.
The prosecutor and the reporter build up the case against the teacher,
and the trial begins with the town already set to hang the northerner.
Understanding that he is the key witness who can send the poor teacher to the
electric chair, the negro recants, but noone believes him.
The media are hysterical. A crowd assembles daily outside the court.
One member of the jury refuses to agree with the guilty convict, despite
a death threat, but eventually gives in, and the teacher is sentenced to die.
The governor decides to save his life, but the crowd attacks the train
that is taking him away and lynches him.
The prosecutor, now a celebrity, runs for senator, counting on the help
of the reporter. He promises the widow that he will prosecute the men
responsible for the lynching, but she replies that he, not the crowd,
is the one responsible. The reporter now has doubts, but the prosecutor
is as cynical as ever. He only did his duty.
Three On A Match (1932), un film molto breve ma denso di eventi,
che segue i protagonisti anno per anno alternando sullo schermo l'azione a
notizie sui fatti dell'anno, narra
la perdizione di una donna altolocata che si
lascia sedurre da un poco di buono e che, ripudiata dal marito e di fronte al
piano dell'amante di rapire suo figlio, lo denuncia e si getta dalla finestra.
Mary, Vivian and Ruth were children in the same public school.
Ruth was the most intelligent, Ruth the most popular, Mary the most troublesome,
mostly busy flirting with boys.
Years later, during the Prohibition, when the media are terrified by the boom
of juvenile delinquents, Mary is in reform school, as the other two girls had
Years later the three young women meet again.
Mary is now a showgirl.
Ruth is still single and is a secretary.
Vivian, as expected, has done best: she is wealthy, the wife of an attorney,
but she is also the most frustrated of the three.
He husband suggests that she goes on a cruise with their child, and Vivian
accepts. During the cruise she meets Mary and her elegant handsome friend
Mike. She is seduded by Mike, who turns out to be a scoundrel, and disappeats
from the boat with the child. While the attorney desperately looks for her,
Vivian begins a life of abuses (alcohol and drugs). Mary worries about the
child and eventually helps the attorney rescue him.
Two years later, Mary and Ruth
have become good friends of the attorney, while Vivian still lives in the
company of gangsters, divorced from her husband. The attorney proposes to Mary,
and hires Ruth as his son's nanny.
Mary tells Vivian. Vivian confesses that she is broke, and Mary gives
her some money. She gives it to her boyfriend Mike, who is in trouble with
a powerful mobster. Desperate, Mike architects the kidnapping of the child
to blackmail the father. The boss decides that it is a splendid idea and
takes control of the operation, asking a much larger sum. Mike and Vivian
become hostages in turn of the gangsters, who use their apartment as their
base of operations. They beat Vivian too, in front of the child.
The kidnapping makes news, and the police search the entire city.
The gangsters are cornered and decide to kill the child, but Mike refuses
to go that far. Vivian, who has overheard the plan, hides the child, writes
a message for the police on her face and then jumps from the window to her
death, thus saving her child who is rescued.
Leroy diresse anche film sul versante opposto:
il musical Gold Diggers Of 1933 di Berkeley e la commedia
Fools For Scandal (1938),
con in mezzo melodrammi di successo come Waterlod Bridge (1940),
adattamento di una tragedia di Robert Sherwood,
in cui una ballerina diventa prostituta quando il suo fidanzato muore nella
The King And The Chorus Girl (1937) is a fairy tale about a European prince who falls in love with an American showgirl during a holiday in New York.
Fools For Scandal (1938), based on Nancy Hamilton's stage play "Return Engagement", is a fast-paced screwball comedy on another unlikely couple, and
In a square of Paris two couples are sitting around a fountain. The two men
are broke. One of them, Dew, just tried in vain to move a pawnbroker on behalf
of his friend, Renee. The two women are a USA tourist, Kay, and her maid,
Myrtle, admiring the history and art of Paris.
Both Renee and the tourist have a date in a club with a lady, who has a niece
Jill of whom both are afraid.
Renee eventually convinces the good pawnbroker to lend him a tuxedo in exchange
for his friend to work a day as a billboard man.
Both Renee and Kay stop in front a church where a wedding has just been
celebrated. Renee is immediately attracted by the tourist. She is offended by
his temerity but can't brush him off. He insists in summoning a taxi for her.
They both decide to ditch the old lady and to have dinner with the other
instead. But the lady shows up with her party. She recognizes Renee
and insists that he joins her table. Kay hides, and
is not recognized (she too had a date with the lady).
While Renee, clearly a decayed aristocrat,
is apologizing to the lady, Kay sneaks out
and takes a taxi home, but leaving a note for Renee to meet her the following
day at the same fountain. At the hotel Kay has a brief argument with her
The following day Renee sleeps till late and Kay thinks he stood her up.
He can see her from his flat's window, but he doesn't have clothes as usual.
While Dew is going to the pawnbroker as usual, Kay tries in vain to summon
a taxi (it's their lunch break). Renee, desperate, buys two carpets and
wraps them around his waist in the Oriental fashion. He stops Kay in time
but two women approach him to buy the carpets. He has to run back to the flat.
Dew finally shows up with the usual billboard around his neck and some
clothes for Renee. Just then the taxi driver walks in begging Renee to get
an autograph from Kay for him: the taxi driver has recognized her as a famous
movie star. Renee learns that she left for London, and follows her there with
Dew (not clear with what money). When Renee arrives, Kay is throwing a costume
party and all the guests are wearing animal masks. One of the guests is the
lady, who immediately recognizes him. The lady introduces Renee to Kay,
who pretends not to know her. Renee would like to return two diamonds that
she forgot, but realizes that Dew pawned them to pay for the trip.
The lady encourages Renee to show his cooking skills. Offended, the female chef
resigns. Renee's food is a success, and he subtly gets himself hired as the
new chef. After dinner Phil, alone with Kay, makes a scene: he is tired of
waiting, and he wants her to make up her mind and marry him.
The lady notices that Renee has not left the house and sneaks in with an excuse.
Sure she finds him, and sure she doesn't believe his excuse (of being the new
chef). The lady gossips about what she considers an affair with everybody
until the whole city is talking about it.
The following morning Renee surprises Kay by serving her breakfast. She asks
him to leave before he ruins her reputation (not knowing that it is already
All of her female friends show up, demanding details of the scandal.
Then it's the turn of the reporters, who surround the mansion, eager to cover
the scandal. Kay fires Renee, but Renee "blackmails" her: if he is forced to
leave the house, he will make up a hot story about he and her.
The phone rings non-stop. Kay is hysterical. Renee declares his love.
Determined to placate the gossiping, Kay decides to accept Phil's marriage
Determined to stop the wedding, Renee swears to Kay's maid that he will
make the engagement fail.
Phil comes over for dinner and,
dressed in a renaissance uniform, Renee ridicules Phil. Kay reproaches Renee
at every step but then lets him go on with his sabotage.
When Renee manages to upset Phil so much that the poor man walks out furious,
Kay in retaliation orders Renee to let the reporters in, and announces her
engagement with Phil. Undeterred in his scheming, Renee phones Phil pretending
to be organizing a photograph session. Renee wins: she confesses that
she is in love with him, but his inferior social status is a problem.
Renee, feeling insulted, tells her that he is a noble and leaves the house.
Kay ignores Phil who is waiting outside and chases Renee in the foggy street.
They enter the first open building and kiss in the dark. The curtains open
and reveal that they are on the stage of a theater. The audience claps amused.
Escape (1940) is a melodramatic war movie in which the mistress of a Nazi officer helps an American free his mother from a concentration camp.
Johnny Eager (1942) is a gangster movie with a complex and effective
Johnny is a nice and amiable taxi driver. He is very popular with the girls
of an office where he has to report for his parole: he is an ex-convict,
apparently fully reformed. The parole officer is proud of him.
Only the secretary of the parole officer doesn't like him. As Johnny leaves
the parole office, two cute female sociologist students walk in.
They question the parole officer to understand how he can be sure that
the ex-convict is now honest. The parole officer knows his past as a mobster
but now he is convinced that Johnny never killed anyone.
Meanwhile, Johnny walks into his secret apartment, hidden behind an innocent
where his personality changes dramatically, from the humble taxi driver to
a cynical gangster boss.
He is worried about his old pal Lou possibly betraying him and is annoyed
by the new prosecutor.
It turns out that the hostile secretary of the gullible parole officer is on
his payroll and helps him pretend to be a honest man
in his other life, as the head of a normal household, when the officer
heads out to check on him. This time he brings the two sociologist students
One of the sociology students, Liz, is attracted to him.
Days later they meet again: Johnny breaks into the office of an associate
who has not paid his dues and assails him while Liz happens to be in the
office for a trivial matter (her fiance Jinny got drunk and didn't pay the bill).
The highly-educated and sophisticated Liz
is not scared, and even promises not to report Johnny's clearly gangster-y
behavior to the parole officer. She seems actually attracted to crime.
Johnny has a girlfriend, Sugar, and Liz is engaged to the good-looking and
promising Jimmy, but they go out together and make love.
Jimmy is worried that he cannot find Liz anywhere and meets with her father,
an arrogant man. While they argue, a car pulls over.
Jimmy opens the door and finds her kissing Johnny goodnight.
Johnny walks into the house and meets her father:
they recognize each other from old days. He is the very prosecutor
who sent him to jail and who is now causing trouble to his gambling racket
(not knowing that Johnny is behind it).
Liz and Jimmy break up.
Johnny's most trusted man is the drunkard Jeff, an intellectual who offends
Johnny's unschooled girlfriend.
Jeff knows that Johnny has no real friends except him.
Liz's father asks to see Johnny. He threatens to send him back to jail if he
ever sees Liz again. Johnny has different plans. He has one of his gangsters
attack him in front of Liz and then conveniently drop a gun in front of
Liz. Liz picks up the gun and shoots the man, believing she killed him.
Johnny rushes her out of the room. The moment they leave the gangster gets
up from the floor: the gun was loaded with blanks. But Liz doesn't know and
is convinced of being a murderer.
Johnny can now blackmail her father.
Before that he has to settle the score with his childhood friend Lou.
He and Jeff head for a place where influential friends are playing cards. Johnny
pretends to get drunk while he's playing and then Jeff pretends to convince
him to go sleep in the bedroom for a few minutes. Instead Johnny leaves
the house from the window the moment his men find Lou, who is coming to
the same place. Johnny murders him brutally, making it look like a car
accident, and then returns to the bedroom
from the same window. When he "wakes up" and rejoins the card game, he has
a perfect alibi.
Liz's father pays a visit to Johnny, puzzled that his daughter is under shock.
He drops the pretense of being an honest can driver and, after explaining that
Liz killed a man, demands a favor: that
the prosecutor gets off his back and lets Johnny open a dog race track.
Liz's father accepts.
Jimmy also visits Johnny. Jimmy is worried that Liz is going out of her mind.
Jimmy doesn't know what is ailing her, but guesses that it's because of
something related to Johnny. Jimmy offers Johnny a huge amount of money
to do just one thing: move away with Liz. Jimmy only wants Liz to be happy.
Johnny does not understand.
Jeff is Johnny's conscience and tries to explain love to him.
When Jeff accuses him of selfishness,
Johnny hits him, but then Johnny decides to do something to help Liz.
When he sees her father, Johnny realizes that he has achieved more than he
had planned: the old man is devastated that he has lost the trust of his
daughter. Liz has decided to turn herself to the police. Johnny is finally
moved to become human and confesses the truth: that she didn't kill anyone.
But Liz thinks that he is lying to make her feel better, that he is lying
out of love. In fact, he is telling the truth out of love.
Back at the gang's headquarters, Johnny finds out that the "dead man" has
switched sides and now works for a rival. Johnny wants Liz to see that the
dead man is alive to prove that he is telling the truth, but things are
complicated by the fact that the "dead man" ia afraid that Johnny wants to
kill him for betraying him.
Johnny asks Jimmy to take Liz to an appointment where he forces the dead man
to show up. Liz can now see that Johnny was telling the truth, but she still
refuses to accept that he doesn't love her. In fact, he does love her, but
he delivers to Jimmy and tells Jimmy to take her away.
As he is walking away, the rival gang ambushes him. During the
gunfight Johnny kills the dead man and his rival boss, but is then
killed by a police officer. Jeff cries on his dead body.
Ironically, the police officer happens to be someone whom Johnny had moved
to another district.
Random Harvest (1942), from the James Hilton novel,
is the ultimate melodrama.
A soldier, Charles, loses his memory and is found wandering in a street by a chorus
girl. The singer takes good care of him. They fall in love and get married,
although the man still doesn't remember who he is. She is a devoted wife,
they live happily and have a child. Then one day he is struck
by a taxi and suddenly recovers his memory... and he forgets about his wife.
He arrives to his real house (a mansion) one day after the funeral of his
father and finds the whole family together.
He candidly confesses to them that he doesn't remember
anything about what happened. His father left him the house and he soon
takes over the business. He is successful, but the key that was in his pocket
when he was struck by the taxi reminds him that there is a life that he
still doesn't know. He flirts with his niece, who fell in love with him
the moment she saw him, and they decide to get married. One day a new
secretary walks into his office: it's his old wife. He doesn't recognize
her. She is devastated. It turns out her baby died, she lost her job as
a singer, and she spent all these years looking for her husband. After
seeing a picture of him in the paper, she took the job to see if he
recognized her. But he didn't. And she knows he wants to marry someone
else. She decides that the best thing she can do is stay out of his life.
But Kitty, the niece, changes her mind, because she can tell that her
uncle does not completely love her: he loves something hidden in his past.
Then Charles decides to travel back in time, to find out who he was before
the taxi accident. His "secretary" accompanies him and helps him in his
quest. He still does not remember but, now that he has been elected to
parliament, he asks her to become his wife just out of reciprocal need.
She accepts. She is hurt that he doesn't truly love her. One day they
visit the town where they used to be happily married and he begins to
remember. And finally he finds his way to their old house and she is
there to hug him.
il bellico Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), in cui le truppe si preparano per il primo attacco su Tokyo,
Without Reservations (1946) is a romantic comedy in which a woman writer identifies with the novel she is writing to the point that she falls in love with a real hero she meets in real life.
Any Number Can Play (1949) is a comedy/melodrama in which
a casino owner tries to win back his estranged wife and child.
East Side West Side (1949) is a strange hybrid of a melodrama that
turns into a thriller.
The socialite Jessie (Barbara Stanwyck) and her husband Brandon (James Mason)
rush to their weekly evening with her wealthy mother Nora and
her attorney Horace.
When Jessie and Brandon leave, their friends comment that the marriage is
working now, implying that they had trouble in the past.
Later Brandon leaves and heads for a night club where she meets
Rosa, who happens to know who he is because his wife shops at her store.
They are rudely interrupted by the sexy and arrogant Isabel (Ava Gardner),
who has just returned from a trip. She was his lover years before. He tells
her that he's been faithful to Jessie ever since. He tells her that their story
She cryptically replies that she'll do "exactly what you want". Then her
jealous friend Alec, seeing them together, knocks him out.
The kind Rosa takes him home, where she lives with her grandmother.
She talks about her friend Mark, who is coming back from a trip in a day,
and it sounds like he is her fiance.
The following morning his wife reads about the brawl in the newspaper,
that has a photo of Rosa leaning on her unconscious husband.
She also reads that Isabel is back in town.
Her friend Helen comes to invite her to a party and also to discuss the
situation: Jessie admits that she is afraid, not only humiliated.
The party is in honor of Rosa's friend Mark. Jessie meets Rosa (probably
to clarify the reason of the brawl) and they become
friends. Rosa tells Jessie that Mark is an ex-cop who now
works for the intelligence service. He is much older than her, and the last
time he saw her she was still a teenager, but she has been in love with him
since she was a child. Rosa introduces Mark to Jessie.
Isabel is stronger than Brandon: she finds an excuse to take him home, where
he plans to tell her to leave him alone but instead is easily seduced again.
At home Jessie waits in vain for her husband: he has forgotten that it's the
night of the party. At the party Jessie is befriended by Mark, who, on the
other hand, still treats Rosa like a little child. Jessie calls Brandon's
secretary and learns that Brandon has left with Isabel. She is hurt and
Mark offers to take her home. When Brandon finally comes home, he finds Mark
entertaining his wife. Alone with her he promises that he will never see Isabel
again. She is happy. He asks her to go away with him for a few days.
Mark, in the meantime, tells Rosa that he only wants her as a friend.
Then he wants to meet Jessie. Before he arrives,
Jessie receives a call from Isabel, and can't resist going to her place
to confront her. Mark arrives and offers to drive her wherever she is going.
Then he waits downstairs. Isabel tells Jessie that she wants Brandon, and
this time wants him not as a lover. Isabel says that she comes from the gutters,
not from high society, and she has learned to fight for what she wants.
The aristocratic Jessie replies politely that at least she was taught how to
lose gracefully. Back in Mark's car, he tells her how much he loves her,
and that he will have to leave soon for another trip.
At home Jessie invites Mark upstairs to meet Brandon as a friend, not a
competitor. Brandon is not there: he has left a message for her to call him
at... Isabel's place. She calls him and he tells her that Isabel has been
murdered. Mark, an ex-cop, offers to help at the murder scene,
and, seeing the address, realizes that Isabel is the person that Jessie
just went to see. Obviously Jessie is going to be a prime suspect.
Brandon claims that he was called by Isabel and found her dead minutes later.
Mark knows the detective assigned to the case and gets a chance to look
at the body. He finds a red nail. He doesn't tell the police that Jessie
was in the apartment and heads for the night club where Isabel used to hang
out. In the meantime, Jessie has told Brandon how disappointed she is that
he ran to Isabel's place when Isabel called him.
At the night club Mark finds out that Isabel had a fight with the haughty
and arrogant Felice, Alec's girlfriend. Mark delivers the girl to the
police, and the police release Brandon. But Jessie does not forgive Brandon
for the whole story. Mark is leaving for his trip, but first he calls her
from the airport to tell her that she should break up with Brandon out of
pride if anything else. Brandon is trying to salvage their marriage by
asking Jessie's mother Nora for help, but Nora is actually happy that Jessie
finally found the strength to get rid of Brandon.
Mister Roberts (1955), adapted by Joshua Logan from the 1946 novel by
Lemmon è un umile marinaio a bordo di una nave comandata da un
dittatoriale Cagney, invano mitigato dall'umano Fonda. Questi sacrifica il suo
foglio di trasferimento per proteggere i marinai da un'ingiusta punizione, ma
Lemmon scopre la verità e lo vendica.
Bad Seed (1956) e` un classico dell'horror cinema.
Una donna che vive sola con la sua bambina (il marito e` un militare
costretto dal lavoro a lunghe trasferte) sta cenando con amici (uno scrittore
che racconta casi di donne maniache omicide e un'appassionata di psichiatria
che tenta di analizzarla) e apprende dalla radio che uno dei bambini
in gita scolastica e` morto annegato, caduto in acqua dal molo.
E` terrorizzata che possa trattarsi di
sua figlia, Rhoda, ma si tratta invece di un altro bambino.
A casa tenta di rincuorare
la bambina, ma questa non ne ha bisogno: e` una bambina apparentemente
angelica, ma in realta` egoista e senza cuore, che e` del tutto indifferente
alla morte del bambino.
L'insegnate della scuola privata va a trovare la donna e le comunica che
la scuola ha deciso di non accettare piu` sua figlia, perche' il suo
comportamento verso gli altri bambini e` insopportabile. La madre e`
sorpresa e turbata che il suo angioletto abbia una fama cosi` brutta.
Anche la madre della vittima viene a trovarla: e` ubriaca, ma e` convinta
che suo figlio sia stato ucciso e ha scoperto che la bambina era con lui
poco prima che cadesse in acqua.
La madre trova poi la medaglia vinta dal bambino, di cui sua figlia era
gelosa. La bambina, bugiarda matricolata e attrice smaliziata, conserva il
suo self-control ed evade le sue domande. Ma la madre si ricorda di un altro
caso in cui un'anziana vicina mori` misteriosamente mentre era sola con sua
figlia, e anche in quel caso c'era un oggetto che la bambina desiderava
La madre si insospettisce ancor piu` quando la bambina le domanda se e` vero
che la polizia puo` ancora trovare tracce di sangue dopo che sono state lavate
La donna chiede aiuto a suo padre, un ex detective che adesso scrive thriller.
Gli confessa di aver sempre
sospettato di essere una figlia adottiva e adesso teme che sua figlia
abbia ereditato i geni di un criminale. E scopre cosi` di essere la figlia
di una delle maniache omicida di cui lo scrittore le aveva parlato.
Messa alle strette, la bambina confessa di aver gettato il bambino in acqua
perche' non voleva darle la medaglia. Non solo: mentre stava tentando di
uscire dall'acqua, lei lo colpi` sulle mani per farlo annegare.
Confessa anche di aver ucciso l'anziana vicina. La madre, nonostante la
mostruosa crudelta` del racconto, decide di proteggerla comunque.
Il giardiniere scemo da cui Rhoda ha appreso molte delle sue tecniche
criminali sottrae le scarpe incriminanti che la bambina pensava di aver
bruciato e adesso minaccia di denunciarla. La bambina non esita a prendere
fiammiferi e far bruciare vivo il giardiniere. E suona il pianoforte in
camera sua mentre i vicini tentano invano di soccorrerre il disgraziato.
La madre, disperata, si spara un colpo e viene ricoverata in condizioni
Il marito accorre all'ospedale e
tenta di capire la ragione, ma il padre della donna non lo aiuta, e gli
altri amici della famiglia non sanno nulla.
La bambina sta gia` meditando di "far morire" la zia, perche' la zia le ha
promesso in eredita` il suo uccellino e Rhoda non vuole aspettare oltre.
Ma prima deve ritrovare l'anello che le cadde in acqua quando uccise il
compagno di scuola.
Di notte, mentre infuria la tempesta, Rhoda sgattaiola fuori e torna al molo
a cercare l'anello e viene incenerita da un fulmine.
Il film e` piu` dotto di quanto sembri, perche' fa continuo riferimento
a Freud e il behaviorismo.
No Time For Sergeants (1958)
The Devil At 4 O'Clock (1961) is a drama depicting the effort by a drunken missionary and three escaped convicts to save a group of children from a volcano.
Gypsy (1962) is a transposition of the Broadway musical.