Tuesday, January 8, 2019

DVR Diary: LOVE ON THE RUN (1936)

This W.S. Van Dyke comedy is a midpoint between It Happened One Night and Too Hot to Handle in Clark Gable's evolution into a lovably amoral hero. As in the other films, Gable plays a reporter, and as in Too Hot he has a rival, here played by Franchot Tone. Gable draws the short end and has to cover the wedding of an American heiress (Joan Crawford, then Mrs. Tone) and some petty prince only to witness the bride bolting the ceremony. He latches on to her, keeping his vocation a secret as long as possible, as reporters must in such stories, while sending dispatches at every opportunity during their flight from London, which begins literally in an airplane Gable barely knows how to pilot. The pair quickly realize that the plane, belonging to an aristocratic aviator Tone is interviewing, actually is a vehicle for espionage. Thus begins a would-be merry chase across the continent, with Tone and the spies constantly butting in. The problem is that the mutual attraction of Gable and Crawford is taken for granted rather than plausibly developed, while their adventures are almost childishly silly, particularly their unlikely night in the Fontainebleau palace and their romp with a pixilated caretaker who takes them for ghostly royalty. Meanwhile, the film pauses every so often to showcase William Demarest's repetitive conniption fits as Gable's editor, while Tone, who must have found the whole experience humiliating, is made to look like a complete idiot throughout compared to the more worthy rival to Gable played by Walter Pidgeon in Too Hot to Handle. Where that film rises to a truly entertaining cartoonishness, Love on the Run seems merely as blandly corny as the worst you might expect from the era of Code Enforcement.  The sad part is that this made a profit,and the later film didn't.

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