Million Dollar Kid, 1944, b&w. Wallace Fox (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, William â€˜Billyâ€ Benedict, Louise Currie, Noah Berry, Herbert Heyes, Johnnny Duncan. 1:05.
Yet another East Side Kids flickâ€”but one of the more heartwarming, if you can deal with the premise of this large band of young adults with no jobs, no visible means of income but also a firm opposition to any actual criminal activity. (â€œYoung adultsâ€ gets to be more of a stretch over timeâ€¦)
In this one, the Kids hear about muggings taking place on their turf that could damage their reputation. They encounter one of them: three punks taking on an older man. They fight off the punks, rescue the manâ€¦and find his wallet in the trash, money intact. Then the cops pick them up, but the man comes to the police station and identifies them as his saviors. He convinces them to drop by his house (thereâ€™s a nice little class-warfare scene involving the butler) where he shows them a well-equipped gym and invites them to use it. They also meet his daughter, a looker who Muggs falls for instantly.
Rest of the plot? One sonâ€™s a pilot overseas; the other seems a little lost (and spends his time in a pool hall filled with unsavory characters). The daughterâ€™s semi-engaged to a Frenchman who seems a little offâ€¦and her fatherâ€™s managed to alienate most of the servants so sheâ€™s not sure who can cook or serve at a party she wants to throw. The Kids provide the cook and servant, and along the way discover that the Frenchmanâ€™s a grifter with a phony accent (and reveal that to her in the right way), the son was one of the muggers (but heâ€™s mostly confused, not really bad), and manage to convince the son to clean up his act. All sweetness and light, and occasionally amusingâ€”and for a change the Kids get along pretty well with the cops. Unfortunately, the sound track is noisy and there are just enough missing frames to be annoying. $0.75.
Bowery Blitzkrieg, 1941, b&w. Wallace Fox (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Keye Luke and the usual gang. 1:02 [0:59]
This time the plot concerns Muggs being sent to reform school on a phony charge, getting out as long as heâ€™s training (as a Police Athletic League rep) for a boxing tournament, claims by a local hood that heâ€™s getting Muggs to throw the bout and lots more. The culmination: Muggs donates blood to save his pal (thatâ€™s all involved with the bout-throwing; itâ€™s complicated and has to do with some of the less ethical or more stupid ESKs) on the day of the Big Boutâ€¦but all comes out OK in the end, of course.
Thatâ€™s a short summary because I didnâ€™t write it up right after seeing the film, and there was really no long-term memory of the movie. It was OK, better than some, andâ€”as with most of theseâ€”really for people who love Leo Gorcey and the gang. For that crowd, Iâ€™ll give it $1.
Three Broadway Girls (aka The Greeks Had a Word for Them), 1932, b&w. Lowell Sherman (dir.), Joan Blondell, Madge Evans, Ina Claire, David Manners, Lowell Sherman. 1:19.
Not an East Side Kids pictureâ€”instead, a comedy about three gold-diggers, whose methods are tipped off by an opening title, noting that half of the women in the world are working womenâ€”and the other half are working the men. Itâ€™s amusing, and all three women are interesting characters, but itâ€™s also a bit forced: One of the three repeatedly undermines any chance for happiness or love by the others, and youâ€™d think the other two would freeze her out at some point. But that would be serious, and thereâ€™s nothing serious about this flick. Itâ€™s amusing, itâ€™s distinctly amoral in a pre-Code way, and Iâ€™ll give it $1.25.
Swing High, Swing Low, 1937, b&w. Mitchell Leisen (dir.), Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Charles Butterworth, Jean Dixon, Dorothy Lamour, Anthony Quinn. 1:32 [1:22]
Comedy? Really? Maybe a musical romantic â€œcomedy,â€ but even thatâ€™s a stretch. Maggie, working on a cruise ship, meets Skid (Fred MacMurray), just getting out of the army, while on her way through the Panama Canal locks. She winds up with him in a nightclub, thereâ€™s a brawl, they wind up in jail, sheâ€™s strandedâ€¦ He turns out to be a great trumpet player.
Events ensue. They get married. He gets a great offer to play in New Yorkâ€”and heâ€™ll send for her later. Heâ€™s a big hit. Except that another woman, the singer in New York, Anita Alvarez (Dorothy Lamour), makes sure heâ€™s always broke and, when Maggie takes a ship to New York on her own, makes sure he doesnâ€™t get the telegram to meet herâ€¦and takes him back to her room.
Maggie gets a divorce. He falls apart completelyâ€”even though heâ€™s really never spent much time with her and has always treated her badly, as far as we can tell. It all ends well, I guessâ€”but I never quite see why she doesnâ€™t just dump this self-centered schmuck and go marry the cattleman who clearly loves her. Maybe Iâ€™m just not romantic enough. Maybe the missing 10 minutes is important.
Ah, but it has Lombard, MacMurray, Lamour and moreâ€”thereâ€™s also Charles Butterworth doing a fine turn as a piano player and others doing good work. Well photographed, reasonably well acted, some good music. As a comedy, though, itâ€™s a washout. Charitably, $1.25.