Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Forty Naughty Girls (1937)

On the opening night of a Broadway play, the press agent is murdered. While the play is in progress, the police inspector (James Gleason) investigates while his lady friend (ZaSu Pitts) noses around.

The plot thickens, there are more murders, and the audience is comedically pointed in many different directions. All in all, Forty Naughty Girls is a fair mystery and comedy. Lets chat about Zasu.

Zasu was a silent film dramatic actress who transitioned into comedy. Her manner and voice will seem to some like a copy of Olive Oyl from the old Popeye cartoons, but in fact it's the other way around. It was Zasu who was being copied. Her name, by the way, was an apparent ploy for family peace. Two aunts wanted her named after them, so her mother named her after both. Eliza Susan. Her nicname is pronounced "Zay-soo". She had a long career in comedy and died at 69, the same as my aunt.

As said before, it's a fair comedy and mystery, better than some (I'm looking at you, Charlie Chan) but otherwise unremarkable save for Zasu's performance. It is also an excellent example of post-code movies being given a misleadingly racy title. AMRU 3.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Topper (1937)

Wealthy socialites George and Marion Kerby (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett) die in an automobile crash and their ghosts don't pass to the other side. They figure that while they've never done a bad deed, they've never done a good one either. So, they set off to do a good deed. They decide to enrich the life of a stuffy and henpecked bank president, Cosmo Topper (Roland Young). Bubble Witch Billie Burke does the pecking.

I hate it when Netflix offers sequels to movies but not the first. In this case Topper Returns, the third and final in the series. TCM was gracious enough to broadcast this for my viewing pleasure. What we have here is a simple screwball comedy, not overly funny but never tedious. Certainly AMRU 3-ish but doesn't encourage me to watch the two sequels. Nothing much else to say here, so let's take a look at hot cadaver Constance Bennett.

Constance, the oldest of three Hollywood sisters, had a successful Hollywood career. She died young at age 60. Sis Barbara didn't act much and nothing of note, but was the mother of TV asshole Morton Downey Jr. She died younger at 51. Baby sis Joan worked quite a bit including Father of the Bride opposite Spencer Tracy, and Dark Shadows opposite a very non-glittery vampire. She lived to the ripish old age of 80. Between them they had twelve husbands.

Grant is always witty and charming, Young was good as the befuddled Topper, and Bennett was truly stunning, but the script lets them down. As this is the highest rated of the the three Topper films, I'll likely pass on the other two. AMRU 3. I wonder if the 50's TV series or the 1979 TV movie is any better.