Monday, May 20, 2013

Now Playing: MAY 20, 1933

To bring readers up to date following an unintended hiatus -- I got caught up writing reviews and simply neglected to cover last week's releases -- King Kong surprisingly lasted only one week at the Warner in Milwaukee, which replaced the ape picture with a modern-dress George Arliss vehicle, The Working Man. So far in 1933, 42nd Street is the only major-studio release to be held over in Milwaukee for a second week in first run. That means Working Man is out, too, replaced by the star probably at the other end of Warner Bros.' prestige spectrum.


Joe E. Brown did a number of baseball pictures that are unusual for slapstick comedies in that Brown usually plays a super-talented rather than incompetent player, with character flaws rather than physical ones. This apparently reflects Brown's real-life skills In this particular fantasy, he leads the Chicago Cubs to a World Series championship but has to be cajoled into joining the Big Show because he enjoys being the spoiled idol of his family and small town, the big fish in a small pond. This Mervyn LeRoy picture is nothing special but I suppose it does count as something different.

Over at the Alhambra, Katharine Hepburn is a hot young star getting a big studio push.

Hepburn's the star but Colin (Frankenstein) Clive is the title character, a married M.P. in love with Hepburn's aviatrix. This is the one where Kate kills herself and an unborn baby by crashing her plane in order to save Christopher Strong's honor. I guess that's why his name comes first.

The big movie event of the week is at the Wisconsin.

Contrary to what anyone who's seen Svengali or Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde might expect, John does not play Rasputin, leaving that juicy slice of ham to brother Lionel. His is the most American Rasputin you'll ever see -- hear, really, and Lionel's voice gives the villain a kind of hayseed flavor that isn't exactly inappropriate for the Mad Monk from the countryside. John plays a fictionalized version of Rasputin's still-living killer, who sued the studio anyway for implying (in a subsequently-deleted scene) that his wife had been raped by the monk. Ethel is the Empress, of course.

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