Thursday, 10 June 2010

It's Love I'm After (1937)

I'm not in the habit of plugging commercial undertakings, but I really must commend the Warner Brothers Archives for their enterprise. What they have done is to make available a growing number of film titles which are generally not available anywhere else, either by download or by limited issue DVDs. These are largely vanilla discs, apart from the very occasional trailer, but who cares when it means that one can obtain an excellent copy of a rare film title. The only trouble from my point of view is that they will not deal with customers outside North America. I do understand their reasoning, even if I am not happy with it. However, other suppliers of their discs are quite willing to deal with overseas purchasers; this includes the U.S. TCM shop (and their affilliate Movies Unlimited) and Amazon US, together with most of their recommended outsources. I can even find copies at my local cinema shop here in London, albeit at greatly increased cost. I have now obtained a selection of these films from all three sources and intend to carry on putting my money where my mouth is; and I am chuffed as monkeys to do so!

The above title was purchased as a replacement for an old beta copy which I taped on a rare television showing many moons ago. I hadn't seen it again in all these years, but my goodness it does hold up as a jolly 90 minutes. One advantage of being a 1930's film fan is that one gets to see one's favourite actors co-starring in a startling variety of roles. This screwball comedy reunites Bette Davis (a personal fave) with Leslie Howard after their earlier "Petrified Forest" and pairs GWTW's Ashley with his Melanie, Olivia DeHavilland, two years earlier. For an actress who tended to be linked with more serious roles, she shows a lively penchant for comedy in this movie. She plays a flighty rich gal (oh those 1930's heiresses) who is engaged to Patric Knowles but who develops a huge crush on Howard's narcissistic actor. Like Lunt and Fontaine, he is often paired with Davis' diva and the couple have been putting off formalising their obvious attraction for some years, preferring to bicker under their breath during their latest production (an adept yet amusing version of the death scene from "Romeo and Juliet").

After a backstage visit where DeHavilland announces her infatuation to the easily flattered Howard, Knowles does a deal with him to discourage this flame. Howard and his manservant, played by the incomparable Eric Blore (a frustrated ham himself) arrive in the middle of the night at DeHavilland's dad's country pile where a house party is in progress. The game-plan is to repeat the scenes and dialogue from an old warhorse play in which the man comes across as such a cad that the young lady runs back into the arms of her true love. However no matter how hard Howard tries to discourage the lass -- meanwhile offending most of her family -- she justs falls further under his spell. Even when Davis turns up as Howard's supposed wife, DeHavilland just clings harder. There's a wonderful scene in the gardens, where Blore says that he will sound his famous bird calls any time that Howard seems too close to giving in to his natural inclination for seduction, which doesn't work, despite Blore trying harder and harder, as there is a competing pet aviary nearby.

Naturally, as these things do, the two couples end up with the partners they deserve. When DeHavilland explains away her fleeting fixation, she says that very recently she thought she was in love with Clark Gable. "Who's he?", asks the self-obsessed Howard. By and large a real treat courtesy the aforementioned Warner Brothers Archives, apart from perhaps rather too much screen time for the bratty, teenaged Bonita Granville. However to paraphrase another WB flick, why ask for the moon when we have the stars!!!
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