Sunday, January 13, 2013

Now Playing: JAN. 12-13, 1933

The Palace in Milwaukee proves, or attempts to, that documentaries can draw the crowds as well as fiction features.

The second feature is fiction, however: an independent picture about a country girl who falls for a big-city politician only to sue him for -- you guessed it -- breach of promise. TCM reports that there's a happy ending despite everything, or at least we can expect one after the heroine does some jail time. So don't say that people can get away with everything in Pre-Code cinema!

Friday is the big day for new releases in Milwaukee and here's a page full of Friday the 13th attractions from the Sentinel:

Let's take a closer look at some of these pictures. This one is probably the most familiar to modern movie buffs:

Cantor was a Ziegfeld Follies star from Broadway who hit big in movies starting with 1930's Whoopee! and was Samuel Goldwyn's star comedian until 1936. His films are peculiar for the contrivances arranged so he could perform at least one number in blackface, but Cantor's default mode is wimpy but quick-witted, and his films remain entertaining despite their occasionally offensive eccentricities.

Jim Tully was a writer who rose to fame after years as a tramp with tales of his tough past and the milieu he moved through as well as gossipy celebrity profiles. Laughter in Hell is a Universal picture directed by the prolific Edward L. Cahn, best known now for his poverty-row sci-fi pictures from the 1950s, some of which prefigure George Romero's films with their visions of mindless hordes on the march. Pat O'Brien kills his wife and her lover and ends up on a chain gang run by the dead man's vengeful brother. He ends up a fugitive from the chain gang but has a happier ending than others in that predicament.

In some theaters the movie takes second place to the stage show. Here's the Riverside, for example:

From the TCM synopsis, Carole Lombard isn't such a bad girl in this Columbia picture as the ad copy suggests, but that's par for the Pre-Code course. No More Orchids is available on DVD as part of a Lombard box set you can order online.

At the Wisconsin:

One of the things that makes the Pre-Code era an exceptional one is that Ralph Bellamy, doomed to play an archetypal loser not much later, could often get the girl in pictures like this Fox film. Director Hamilton Macfadden helmed some of Warner Oland's early Charlie Chan pictures and acted in some of Sidney Toler's. Of the vaudevillians I know nothing.

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