Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Now Playing: FEB. 27, 1933

These pictures opened in Milwaukee between Feb. 23 and Feb. 25. This particular week gives us a partial yet revealing survey of some of the performers who managed to be popular in the Pre-Code era. They're a diverse lot, starting with the man Warner Bros. considered their biggest star -- as a matter of artistic prestige.


The King's Vacation looks like a departure from Arliss's typical biopic material. I've seen two of his pictures: 1934's Voltaire and his 1929 Oscar winner, Disraeli. The Arliss formula allowed him to orate melodramatically and play in a more conversational mode as a kindly old matchmaker for his films' romantic leads. But he seems to be a romantic lead in this John G. Adolfi film, as the trailer from the ever-reliable will testify.

Arliss was probably past his peak by 1933, but this is definitely Lee Tracy's year. For a moment, no one seemed to be hotter. Here's his latest, a Universal service comedy.


In this one Tracy is pissed off at having to serve in World War I -- retroactively, who wasn't? -- but learns the value of duty and courage when it's up to him to save another man's life.  The picture apparently gives Tracy every excuse to be pissed -- his conscription causes his mother's death, for instance -- but it looks like there's a patriotic payoff at the end. Might be worth seeing.

At the Wisconsin, you get three comedy teams for the price of one. You may recognize the pairs on the lower part of the bill, but the stars of the program may be a mystery to many today.


Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey were RKO's main comedy stars for most of the 1930s, though this happens to be a Columbia picture. The act was cut short by Woolsey's death in 1938, but that may not be the only reason they haven't really stood the test of time. I've never really been impressed by them, at least, but maybe you will be by this apparent digest of the picture uploaded by atqui.

Finally,following the presumably successful run of Mystery of the Wax Museum two weeks ago, the Garden theater has two of that picture's stars in a timely piece of exploitation.

This independent picture was filmed on the Universal lot and throws Dwight Frye into the bargain. Long part of the public domain, Vampire Bat is probably one of the most-seen pictures from 1933. "Super Shocker" may be a slight exaggeration, but what else would you expect from a newspaper ad?

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