The Milky Way, 1936, b&w. Leo McCarey (dir.), Harold Lloyd, Adolphe Menjou, Verree Teasdale, Helen Mack, William Gargan, George Barbier, Dorothy Wilson, Lionel Stander, Charles Lane, Marjorie Gateson. 1:29 [1:27]
Burleigh Sullivan (Harold Lloyd) is a milkman with glasses, a timid sort who gets practical jokes played on him during dairy meetings and isn’t much liked by his boss, the dairy owner. His sister is a hatcheck girl. When he comes to pick her up at the club, she’s being harassed by two sizable and drunk buffoons, one of them far more buffoonish than the other. He comes to her defense and, in the ensuing melee, seems to have knocked out one of the buffoons—who turns out to be the middleweight boxing champion.
That’s the setup. From there, it’s a fast-moving joyride with Adolphe Menjou doing a great job as a boxing manager/promoter with the ethics you’d expect, just enough physical comedy, some great ways to duck-and-dance, love interest, the meek becoming the arrogant—and redeeming himself, and lots more. I found it thoroughly entertaining in an ageless way, well played by everyone concerned, well written and just flat-out funny to boot. A key plot point involves a thuggish boxing assistant who’s literacy is minimal at best and the fact that “some ammonia” and “insomnia” have some similarities. Pretty good print, but it seems to be missing a minute or two (though there’s no obvious gap). Supposedly, this movie almost disappeared because Samuel Goldwyn purchased both the rights (for a Danny Kaye remake) and the negative, and destroyed that—but Lloyd had retained a quality print. I’ll give it $1.75.
Money Means Nothing, 1934, b&w. Christy Cabanne (dir.), Wallace Ford, Gloria Shea, Edgar Kennedy, Vivien Oakland, Maidel Turner, Betty Blythe, Eddie Tamblyn. 1:10 [1:04]
This is a Depression romantic comedy in the worst way: I found the whole thing pretty depressing, and it being filmed in 1934 was part of that. The plot’s also a little strange, possibly due to a few missing minutes in this print. To wit: A young socialite’s at a sleazy roadhouse with her drunk-to-the-point-of-unconsciousness date. She spots four men conferring at a nearby table and thinks they look interesting/suspicious. A waiter tells her she should mind her own business. But of course, she trails them outside and, stuffing her comatose date in her fancy roadster, follows their car…which is on its way to hijack two trucks full of tires, an effort she aids by stalling her car in a manner that blocks the trucks.
In the ensuing brouhaha, one driver gets shot and the handsome young man who was in the same truck admonishes her. They wind up at her father’s (or sister’s?) mansion, with the driver bleeding all over the expensive sofa, cops, doctors, bemused father, angry sister… Anyway: She (the socialite) essentially stalks the young man (who’s a manager at an auto accessories store), loading the roadster down with a dozen or more horns in the process, until she finally gets him to marry her. (The incongruity: He never seems to show more than the most casual interest in her.) Naturally, her sister sees to it that she’s cut off without a cent—and shortly thereafter, he loses his job (which apparently has something to do with the gossipy, loud woman in an apartment near the one they move to, whose husband is a higher-up at the parts place). He’s looking for work. She’s pawning stuff to keep them going—and at one point, a pawnbroker’s wife informs her that she’s pregnant (based on her near-fainting spell?). Anyway, somehow, the husband winds up being part of a tire hijacking ring but heroically saving the day and getting his old job back. Or something like that.
Occasionally amusing, but mostly not, and really pretty depressing as well as being wildly illogical even by romantic comedy standards. (Full confession: I love good romantic comedies.) At best, I’d give this $0.75.
Never Wave at a WAC, 1953, b&w. Norman Z. McLeod (dir.), Rosalind Russell, Paul Douglas, Marie Wilson, William Ching, Arleen Whelan, Leif Erickson, Hillary Brooke, Charles Dingle, Lurene Tuttle, Regis Toomey, Gen. Omar Bradley (playing himself). 1:27.
This one’s also a romantic comedy, as well as a comedy about growing up and the military—and it’s an absolute charmer. Russell plays a Washington, DC socialite, daughter of a senator and divorced from a fabric manufacturer and researcher (who works with the Pentagon on specialized uniform needs)—and whose boyfriend, a Colonel, is suddenly on his way to Paris to work with NATO.
While she first makes a flight reservation for Paris, a discussion with her father leads to a belief that she can get the government to pay for her flight—by joining the WACs with an assured officer commission and billeting in Paris. So off she drives to Fort Lee, where she’ll deal with the formalities before rejoining her boyfriend. Basic training? Surely she doesn’t have to…
Things don’t go quite as planned—and in the process, we get a movie that’s enjoyable on several levels. There’s some pure physical comedy, a lot of relationship comedy (among women as well as between women and men), a lot of heart and an odd but presumably happy ending. Even though there are a few missing syllables (but apparently less than a minute overall missing) due to print issues, it’s still worth $2.
Nothing Sacred, 1937, color. William A. Wellman (dir.), Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger, Walter Connolly, Sig Ruman. 1:17 [1:14]
The plot’s not all that unusual, but this 1937 romantic comedy is in well-preserved Technicolor and stars Carole Lombard, and it’s a flat-out winner. A newspaper reporter who’s done very well for his New York paper gets taken in by a fake Asian potentate (actually a shoe-shine artiste) and relegated to the world’s worst obituary desk. Pleading his case with the editor, he spots an underplayed story about a young woman in a Vermont town who’s dying of radium poisoning.
He goes off to interview her and to show her New York as a great story and publicity stunt. The interactions with small-town Yup/Nope Vermont, specifically a factory town wholly owned by a watch company, and the lush doctor who (mistakenly) diagnosed radium poisoning (a mistake that the patient and doctor, ahem, choose not to reveal when the reporter offers the New York trip) starts out a fast-moving, charming tale. Yes, it’s a bit cynical, but it’s also funny and entertaining. Fairly big-budget for its time, well-made, a good print, and easily worth $2.