Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Now Playing: FEB. 12, 1933

These pictures actually opened in Milwaukee back on the 9th and 10th, but they're still playing on this day 80 years ago. Here's the highlight of this week's first-run attractions.

And here's what I thought of it when I saw it a few months back. Note the extra added attraction, by the way. Hey, Pop was the first of six short subjects with which Warner Bros. intended to reintroduce the disgraced Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle back to audiences. It seems a fitting gesture for the Pre-Code era, and the public apparently accepted him. The idea of Arbuckle as a member of the Warners stock company is tragically tantalizing; according to Wikipedia, the studio was just about to graduate him back to features when he died later in 1933. We should see more evidence of the Arbuckle build-up in the coming months.

The Wisconsin counters Fatty with Charlie Chase, and Warner Bros. ribaldry with the homespun humor of a living American legend.

This is the first of three State Fair movies, the others being a 1945 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical and its 1962 remake.

Speaking of musicals, film historians are always telling us of how most of the earliest Hollywood musicals became instantly obsolete because of their primitive staging and sound recording. Here, however, is one of those primitives getting a re-release three years after its debut.

The simplest explanation is that a musician like Paul Whiteman, for whom the film was named, was still hugely popular on radio and records, and thus still exploitable. It's also true that oldschool musicals like King of Jazz wouldn't actually become obsolete until 42nd Street arrived later in 1933. We will see....

Finally, at the Palace:

Billion Dollar Scandal looks the more promising of these pictures. Robert (Carl Denham) Armstrong is an ex-con masseuse who gets involved in insider stock training and ends up targeted for death in this rags-to-riches-to-rags Paramount parable. In the co-feature, a sign-painter and a fortune-teller vie for the affections of a farm girl as Spencer Tracy continues to pay his dues at Fox. For him, despite the Depression, we can definitely say that better days are coming.

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