Archive for August 12th, 2011

by Allan Fish

(USA 1933 70m) not on DVD

$5 down, $2 a month thereafter

p  Frank Borzage  d  Frank Borzage  w  Jo Swerling  play  Lawrence Hazard  ph  Joseph H.August  ed  Viola Lawrence  m  W.Franke Harling  art  Stephen Goosson

Spencer Tracy (Bill), Loretta Young (Trina), Glenda Farrell (Fay la Rue), Marjorie Rambeau (Flossie), Walter Connolly (Ira), Arthur Hohl (Bragg), Dickie Moore (Joey), Harvey Clark (restaurant manager),

When we first see Spencer Tracy in tux and tails at a bench one would be forgiven for thinking of him in one of his least finest hours, miscast in the title roles of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  This isn’t late 19th century, London, however, but Depression era New York, and the pigeons Tracy is feeding are in Central Park not in Trafalgar Square. 

            Tracy is Bill, a young man who meets an even younger girl, Trina, when he finds her hungry on a park bench.  He takes her for a slap up feed at a posh restaurant, but despite appearances he’s just as poor as she is and the outfit is really an advertising gimmick for coffee.  After conning a free feed, he takes her back to a Hooverville on the banks of the Hudson where she shares a shack with him and meets the crooked lecher, Bragg, the drunken Flossie, and the widower Ira, who’s recently got a job as a night-watchman.  Trina loves Bill.  Bill loves Trina, but doesn’t want to settle down, preferring to move on.  He lingers, but won’t put it down to love, even helping her get a stove on an instalment plan for their shack, but when Trina gets pregnant, Bill realises it will need a little more than odds and ends to make ends meet.  

            It would be easy to be cynical towards Borzage’s overtly romantic style but the older it gets the more it seems to personify its era, the Depression, with its shanty towns, living for a job, starvation around the corner, and the sound of train whistles constantly in the ears of would-be travellers beckoning them aboard.  It’s unreal but the world it depicts has more than a ring of truth.  Throughout the film, there are references to how much worse the situation could be, such as when Tracy tells Young that “the unemployment question has nothing to do with women”, as veiled a reference to prostitution as even the pre-code era offered.  She’d rather throw herself in the drink, and had never even considered it as a possibility, which is perhaps part of the reason Tracy gets so attached to her.  Those he surrounds himself with are as cynical as he is and, though there are no streetwalkers in Borzage’s film, one can be sure of Tracy’s knowing a few in his time.  (more…)

Read Full Post »