Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Chump at Oxford again

I've written about this one here before, but it was on TV again this morning and I just had to note again what a perfect showcase this is for Stan Laurel's talents as an actor. He played the same character for so long and became so closely identified with it that it's striking to see him here in his stuffy, pompous "Lord Paddington" character, a real testament to his acting range and a glimpse at the different character parts he could have played.

And Oliver Hardy is wonderful as usual, frustrated and put-upon under Paddington's condescending orders one moment and then jovial and happy when he has his old friend back at the end.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Unknown (1927)

Lon Chaney is Alonzo, an armless knife thrower in a gypsy circus in old Madrid. He loves the circus owner's daughter, Nanon (Joan Crawford), who detests being touched by men (consequently rejecting the affections of the circus strongman) and only feels safe around Alonzo. 

Little does she know that not only does Alonzo actually have arms (which he keeps tightly and uncomfortable bound in a corset), but he actually is a wanted murderer, easily identifiable by his deformed double-thumb on one hand.

After a brutal fight with the circus owner, Alonzo strangles him, and Nanon witnesses only the telltale double-thumb on the murderer's hand. Realizing that his future happiness with Nanon depends on concealing his true identity, Alonzo blackmails a surgeon into amputating his arms.

In his absence, Nanon comes to trust the strongman and to feel comfortable in his embrace. Alonzo returns from his surgery to the news that she and the strongman are to be married. He exacts his revenge on the strongman by sabotaging his dangerous new act, which consists of his arms being bound to horses running on a treadmill, and almost results in the strongman being torn limb from limb. When his beloved Nanon intervenes to save the strongman, putting herself in harm's way of the wild horses, Alonzo sacrifices himself to save her, finally being trampled to death under the horse's hooves.

It's the kind of gruesome, offbeat film that is hard to imagine coming from a major studio like MGM. It runs only 49 minutes -- a testament to giving just as much time as needed to tell the story without any padding or extraneous material. It's beautifully photographed by Merritt B. Gerstad, who shoots some of Crawford's scenes through a gauze filter. Chaney gives one of his best performances as Alonzo, bringing sympathy to the character even when overcome with homicidal jealousy. It's also a strong contender for the best film that director Tod Browning made in his career, bringing together his favorite themes with the highly accomplished visual storytelling that silent films did best.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Mr. Boggs Steps Out (1938)

This was a nice little comedy that I found on Pub-d-Hub, looking for something short and funny to watch tonight. It's based on a story by Clarence Budington Kelland, author of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.

Mr. Boggs, as played by affable Stuart Erwin, would be right at home in the world of Frank Capra -- a good-hearted, naïve small town man who takes on the big guys. After he wins a small fortune in a bean-counting contest, statistics expert Mr. Boggs arrives in an economically-depressed small town to purchase a barrel factory that has been shut down for some time. He knows nothing about manufacturing barrels, of course, but is sure he can learn. With the help of the barrel-maker and his daughter, Boggs sets about getting the factory up and running and putting the townsmen back to work. But he finds himself up against a crooked swindler who attempts to cheat Boggs out of his business.

I've always liked Stuart Erwin. He's one of those familiar faces who turns up in many films during the '30s and '40s, and has the kind of likable personality and low-key sense of humor that's fun to watch.

Blonde Crazy (1931)

James Cagney is a bellhop who dreams of becoming a big-time grifter. He teams up with maid Joan Blondell, and the two small-time crooks embark on a series of schemes to strike it big during the depths of the Great Depression. Along the way, they get mixed-up with other con-men and get taken by a few schemes themselves, but in the end, they'll always have each other.

This is one of the best of the Warner Bros. pre-Code crime pictures. Cagney and Blondell have great chemistry together, and the film is filled with the kind of salacious moments that just a few years later would be prohibited on the screen, giving it a "down and dirty" quality that perfectly captures the atmosphere and attitudes of the Great Depression years.

At a brisk 79 minutes, it's also a model of economic storytelling and pacing. There's not a wasted minute of screen time.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

British Intelligence (1940)

I'd watched this one last week and didn't get around to writing anything down about it. There's not much to say, really -- it's a pretty routine wartime espionage thriller about double-agents operating in London, set during WWI but designed as a bit of propaganda for 1940 audiences.

The plot itself is a bit confusing, packing so many character twists into its hour running time that the motivations and relationships aren't always clear. 

The highlight is Boris Karloff in the role of a double-agent. He's always fascinating to watch and gives the part his all.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Gorilla (1939)

I read an interview once with Mel Brooks where he said that he considered Harry Ritz, of the Ritz Brothers, the funniest of all comedians. The madcap comic energy he and his brothers, Al and Jimmy, bring to this fun 1939 riff on "old dark house" mysteries is certainly in line with what Mel Brooks would do years later with comedies like Young Frankenstein and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

Directed by Allan Dwan with swift pacing, the film opens with a newspaper montage detailing a series of murders carried out by a killer known as The Gorilla. The killer has notified his next victim, a wealthy businessman (Lionel Atwill), of his impending doom. Atwill owes someone a great deal of money that he cannot pay, and then there's the matter of the forthcoming inheritance to be split between him and his niece (Anita Louise), so Atwill hires a trio of detectives (the Ritz Brothers) to protect him, who of course only add to the chaos. Things are further complicated when an actual escaped gorilla (actually Art Miles in a gorilla suit) shows up at the house, as well as a mysterious stranger (Joseph Calleia). Also on hand are Patsy Kelly as the zany maid and Bela Lugosi as the creepy butler. 

The whole thing is a good deal of silly fun, especially if you enjoy these kind of haunted house mysteries, with lots of creaking doors, lights flickering on and off, and people disappearing into hidden passageways around the elaborate mansion set. The plot (based on an old play by Ralph Spence) is just straight enough to work on its own, and the added comic presence of the Ritz Brothers just cranks everything up a notch. Recommended for a good late night comedy.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Marilyn (1953)

aka Roadhouse Girl

British noir about a young mechanic who gets a job at a garage in the English countryside. He falls in love with the owner's wife, and when the husband catches the two of them together, the mechanic kills the husband. Although the mechanic is acquitted, his problems are only beginning.

The plot reminded me a bit of The Postman Always Rings Twice. I love the bleak atmosphere of these post-war British B movies, and this one evidently has a strong reputation among them.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Laurel & Hardy: One Good Turn, County Hospital, Blotto

One Good Turn is an interestingly topical short for Laurel and Hardy, explicitly referencing the hard conditions of the Depression. The boys are down on their luck vagrants, living out of their car, who offer to chop some wood for an old lady in exchange for food. When they come to believe the kindly old woman is in danger of being evicted from her home, they set about trying to raise the money to help her. The ending reverses their roles somewhat, with Stan turning on Oliver and getting revenge for his cruel treatment of him.

County Hospital is one of my favorites. Stan comes to visit Oliver in the hospital, and sets in motion a series of mishaps. That set-up is all they need for one of their funniest shorts. There's a great scene of Laurel eating a hard-boiled egg and making it uproariously funny as only he could. The climactic scene, with Laurel falling asleep at the wheel after sitting on a hypodermic needle, is often cited as a weak wrap-up to the short, with its overuse of obvious back-projection, but for me it works in exactly the same way as the back projection in W.C. Fields' The Fatal Glass of Beer or Man on the Flying Trapeze -- hilarious in its sheer artificiality.

Blotto is a good situation comedy for the Boys. Stan and Oliver sneak out to a fancy new nightclub for an evening of drunken carousing. Stan steals a bottle of liquor that his wife has been stashing away since Prohibition, but she's on to him, and ends up getting the upper hand on the Boys. It's an odd thing to comment on here, but I've always been struck by the elaborate production design of the Art Deco nightclub set. No art directors are credited on the Laurel and Hardy films before 1936, and I have never read any information about the set designers on these short subjects. I'd love to know more about the unsung designers who came up with that set.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

The Naked Kiss (1964)

An explosive melodrama written and directed by Sam Fuller. A prostitute arrives in a small town and, after spending the night with a cop, leaves her former life behind and gets a job at a nurse at a local children's hospital. From there, she ends up becoming engaged to the wealthiest man in town, and she seems to be living a fantasy until she discovers his extremely disturbing secret.

The opening scene of this film, which I won't give away here, grabs you and throttles you and pulls you right in to this tense story. It is truly unforgettable.

Beautifully shot in B&W by Stanley Cortez.

He Was Her Man (1934)

Rather subdued Warner Bros. pre-Coder with James Cagney as a gangster on the run after he double-crosses the crooks who put him in jail. He meets Joan Blondell, on her way to meet up with her fiance, and the two travel to the remote California fishing village where he lives and works. Along the way, Cagney and Blondell fall in love, but the mobsters seeking revenge eventually track him down.

Victor Jory, usually cast as a heavy, is good as Blondell's kindly fiance.

Not filled with the kind of action and wise-cracking dialogue you'd expect from Cagney and Blondell, but it's an effective melodrama that offers Blondell a good leading role, something she certainly deserved more of in her career.

Arrest Bulldog Drummond (1938)

These Bulldog Drummond movies are a lot of fun. They're perfect viewing for late at night, when you're looking for something to watch that isn't too long or doesn't require a great deal of attention to follow. Most of these are just under an hour long.

This one finds gentleman detective Col. Hugh Drummond (John Howard) on the trail of a scientist (B movie favorite George Zucco) who's invented a death ray. On the eve of Drummond's wedding to fiancee Phyllis Clavering (Heather Angel), he and his loyal sidekick Algy (Reginald Denny) and valet Tenny (E.E. Clive) head off on an adventure to track the inventor down and stop him before he can cause mass destruction.

As with many Hollywood programmers, the recurring supporting cast come to feel like old friends, and it's fun to see them return in each film. Paramount, who produced this particular series, did a good job of re-creating the atmosphere of the British Scotland Yard thrillers on their Hollywood sound stages.

Don't Look Now (1973)

A married couple, who recently lost their daughter in a drowning accident, are in Venice, where the husband is working to restore an old church. After his wife receives an ominous warning from a psychic she's met, the husband becomes haunted by visions of his dead daughter.

That's the plot, but there's so much going on here with Nicolas Roeg's stylistic direction that evokes the fear and dread lurking beneath the surface, that creeping unease that something awful is always about to happen. One of the best '70s horror films. I'd recently watched Roeg's Walkabout and he really does strike me as one of the most interesting filmmakers of the era, a master of tone and atmosphere.

Based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Blondie Johnson (1933)

An interesting twist on the usual Warner Bros. gangster film. This time, Joan Blondell is a downtrodden woman who turns to a life of crime to gain power and control over her own life. She becomes involved with gangster Chester Morris, and uses her wits and determination to rise to the top of the Chicago underworld. 

This is another one of these early talkies that packs an incredible amount of plot into its brief running time of just over an hour. Similar to the "rise and fall" plotlines of Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, Blondell's character starts from nothing and claws her way up to the top of the criminal ladder, but her ambitions ultimately lead to tragedy.

It's also a nice, if all too rare, opportunity for Blondell in a starring role where she really carries the film on her own as the lead.

Night Nurse (1931)

I'd never seen this one before, one of the most notorious pre-Code films. Barbara Stanwyck is a down-on-her-luck young woman who gets a chance to train as a nurse at a hospital. Joan Blondell is her tough, wisecracking colleague. At first, it looks like this is going to be a gritty and sensational expose of the goings-on at the hospital, but quickly turns to melodrama as Stanwyck is stationed at the home of a wealthy couple whose sick children, it turns out, are being neglected and mistreated. The mother and her boyfriend, both negligent alcoholics, are completely disinterested in the children's well-being, and Stanwyck learns about a plot involving the family chauffeur who has his own reasons for wanting the children dead.

It takes a very dark and unpleasant turn in the second half of the film, with Stanwyck a powerful presence as she holds her own against the gangsters and corrupt doctors that she must deal with in order to save the children.

Directed with characteristic economy by William Wellman. Also starring Ben Lyon and Clark Gable in an early role as the villainous chauffeur.

Dames (1934)

Coming after the hit trilogy of 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Footlight Parade, Dames feels like a re-tread of those earlier films, both in terms of its backstage plot and its music numbers. This time, Guy Kibbee and Zasu Pitts are a New York couple who stand to inherit ten million dollars from their wealthy eccentric uncle Ezra (Hugh Hubert), provided that they prove themselves to be moral, upstanding citizens. Problem is, their daughter Ruby Keeler is in love with cousin Dick Powell, the black sheep of the family, and both of them are putting on a Broadway show. If Uncle Ezra finds out, then the inheritance is off. 

That's just a set-up to the big show, showcasing Busby Berkeley's signature choreography. There are fewer really memorable numbers here, but the highlight is "I Only Have Eyes for You", featuring Ruby Keeler's face multiplied dozens of times over. It's a feat of staging and special effects and ranks as one of Berkeley's finest achievements.

Less iconic than the previous three Berkeley musicals, this one still recaptures much of the charm and ingenuity of those films, perhaps just in smaller amounts.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

The Crowd Roars (1932)

Gripping melodrama directed by Howard Hawks, about troubled racecar driver James Cagney and his younger brother who idolizes him. Cagney agrees to help him break into professional racing, but the brother's career takes off as Cagney's hits the skids.

Ann Dvorak (whom I had just watched in Three on a Match) is Cagney's long-suffering girlfriend who puts up with his drinking and hot temper, and Joan Blondell is the woman who ends up falling in love with Cagney's younger brother, driving a wedge between them.

The racing scenes are incredibly well-shot, only a handful of shots relying on back-projection. The camera is right there in the action, and there are more than a few scenes that had to have been extremely dangerous to shoot. About half a dozen actual racecar drivers are credited for their assistance with the filming, and performed in the driving scenes themselves.

The story, by Howard Hawks, was loosely remade by him in 1965 as Red Line 7000.

Nocturama (2016)

 A thriller about a group of young French terrorists who hole up in an expensive department store after committing their attacks.

From there, it turns into a kind of Dawn of the Dead-type commentary on consumerism and self-destruction, as the young terrorists grow restless and bored as the night drags on, engaging in increasingly stupid and reckless behavior that will eventually lead to their downfall. They turn the department store into their playground, blasting music on the stereo system, dressing up in the expensive clothing, playing with the toys, and raiding the kitchen for their own little feast, like Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard in Modern Times.

The story is slow to get going -- a lot of time is spent building up to the acts of terror, but these seem almost secondary once the real story takes over: how could these young people, capable of pulling off such carefully-plotted catastrophic destruction, also be so incredibly stupid and careless in the aftermath.

Murder My Sweet (1944)

Based on Raymond Chandler's Farewell My Lovely, Murder My Sweet is one of the great Film Noir pictures. Former song-and-dance man Dick Powell brings a vulnerability to Marlowe that heightens the danger he's in -- especially when being beaten and choked within an inch of his life by tough guy Mike Mazurki. He lacks the sort of toughness that Bogart brought to the character in The Big Sleep, but Powell is quite effective at this interpretation of Marlowe. It's an incredibly tough and brutal picture, too -- with Marlowe taking quite a beating at the hands of his captors. Mazurki delivers a deceptively nuanced performance as the hulking brute who is searching for the woman he loved and lost. There is a hallucinatory dream sequence in the middle of the film that is a delirious nightmare vision of Marlowe's trauma.

The book was filmed again under its original title in 1975, with Robert Mitchum as Marlowe. It would have been interesting to see what Mitchum would have done with the character if he'd played him in the '40s.

Directed by Edward Dymtryk. Also starring Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, Otto Kruger, and Miles Mander. 

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Busy Bodies, The Chimp, The Midnight Patrol

Laurel and Hardy in The Midnight Patrol (1933)

A Laurel and Hardy triple feature on the Movies! network this morning. 

The first two were among the very first Laurel and Hardy movies I saw. Busy Bodies (1933) is one of their very best, as far as I'm concerned. The Boys work at a lumber mill and cause no end of chaos. The final scene, with Hardy being sucked through the scrap lumber disposal, is reminiscent of Chaplin getting pulled through the machine's gears in Modern Times.

The Chimp (1932) is a silly one, and a lot of fun. After a circus shuts down, the owner can't afford to pay his employees, so he gives them all a piece of the circus instead. Laurel gets the flea circus and Hardy gets the dancing chimpanzee, Ethel. In a variation on Angora Love and Laughing Gravy, they spend the rest of the film trying to hide the chimp in a boarding house. My favorite line: when Laurel sees the lion run loose through the streets, he tells Hardy, "I just saw MGM."

Laurel and Hardy are policemen in The Midnight Patrol (1933). It plays like a variation on Night Owls, with the Boys breaking into the police chief's home, except this time they're on the other side of the law -- but they still cause just as much trouble. My favorite scene has the Boys obligingly negotiating a court date with a burglar whom they've caught in the act, checking his datebook for conflicting appointments.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Grand Hotel (1932)

This is one of those classic Hollywood movies I had somehow not seen before.

It's an excellent ensemble piece, following five people, all staying at the Grand Hotel in Berlin, whose lives intertwine over the course of a couple days. Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John and Lionel Barrymore, and Wallace Beery head the all-star cast. 

The hotel itself is the kind of place that could only exist in a Hollywood studio film of the '30s. It's hard to imagine a place so opulent in real life -- the sumptuous Art Deco interiors looming impossibly large above the characters, every single detail perfectly in place.

Interesting discussion about Edgar G. Ulmer

This is an interesting panel discussion about Edgar G. Ulmer's life and career:

Lawyer Man (1932)

William Powell is an attorney on the Lower East Side of New York who rises to the top after winning a big case, but his underworld connections pull him back down until he launches a one-man crusade against the corrupt political machine.

It strikes me that these tight, lean early talkies are similar to the kind of storytelling that I enjoy with micro-filmmaking. It allows us to see a character study conveyed with extreme economy and no extraneous details. We learn everything we need to know about this character, and his rise and fall (and rise again), through a minimum of detail that still provides a clear picture and keeps the plot moving. These films could be a model for low-budget filmmakers looking to tell their stories as economically as possible.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Burns and Allen

I've been watching some of the George Burns & Gracie Allen shorts and TV episodes available on YouTube. I watched one tonight called 100% Service, a short subject they made in 1931. It's little more than a filmed vaudeville sketch consisting of banter between the loopy Gracie and the bemused George, which is really all they needed to be funny. Burns & Allen never really became top-billed movie stars, typically appearing in supporting parts or with ensemble casts, as in International House or Six of a Kind. Aside from their vaudeville performances, which of course we have no real record of, they were probably at their best in radio (and later on TV). Their comedy was perfectly suited to this shorter format where they could present their sketches.

I was talking with someone about this just the other day. Comedians who did some of their best work in movies are at an advantage, because those movies are still readily available for the most part, and represent the comedians well. W.C. Fields, The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, and others had their reputations cemented largely on the basis of their movies. But there are so many other wonderful comedians out there whose recorded performances may consist almost entirely on radio or later TV, and you sometimes have to go out of your way to seek out their best work and appreciate how brilliant they were. 

Jack Benny is a good example of this, I think -- he made one great film, To Be Or Not To Be, which despite its considerable strengths was not really characteristic of his other work (although Benny was perfectly cast as the vain Shakespearean actor). He did appear in a slew of other movies of varying quality, sometimes as a star and sometimes in a walk-on or cameo. If you judged him only on his film work, you might say he was an amusing presence in a few good movies. But to experience his radio -- and later TV -- work is to see why he ranks among the very top tier of comedians. 

Fred Allen is another good example of this. One of the absolute geniuses of comedy on the radio.

Dixiana (1930)

An overblown hodge-podge of music, romance, melodrama and comedy set against the backdrop of the antebellum South. A wealthy plantation owner's son falls in love with a circus performer, Dixiana, but his mother's objections put an end to their engagement. Dixiana returns to work for a sleazy gambling hall owner who has his own designs on her, but soon her ex-fiance son shows up to reconcile their relationship.

Worth watching for fans of Wheeler and Woolsey, who are relegated to largely supporting roles here but provide some good comedy relief from the cumbersome, lumbering romantic plot. The final 20 minutes are filmed in Technicolor, and showcases tap dance number by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

Dixiana is in the public domain and can be downloaded from the Internet Archive.

Short Features

One of the things I enjoy about the pre-Code films like Three on a Match (1932), which I watched this morning, is that they often have fairly short running times by the standards of Hollywood theatrical features. Three on a Match, for example, runs just 62 minutes, and packs a lot in to that length. As a result, it's fully engaging for that duration, and is easy to watch casually without having to commit too much time to it.

I watch a lot of B movies while working out at the gym, because the roughly hour-long running time is perfectly suited to the amount of time I spend on the exercise equipment, where I watch the film on my phone. And the relatively simple and straightforward plots do not require a great deal of attention.

Three on a Match is not a B movie, really, but a smaller film from a major studio (in this case, Warner Bros.) In those days, the studios could release a 60 minute feature because it would be part of a program with shorts and other supplemental films, and after the emergence of double features, B movies provided the second half of the program.

Thinking about it, though, there were still some big studio "A" pictures that had short running times: Intermezzo (1939) ran 70 minutes, Nothing Sacred runs 77 minutes, The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) and Roxie Hart (1942) were both 75 minutes, and Preston Sturges' Christmas in July (1940) was just 68 minutes. The shorter lengths were more common with comedies: Laurel and Hardy made a couple of features that ran just under an hour, and W.C. Fields made one that ran 58 minutes. Alfred Hitchcock's Rope ran 80 minutes.

The term "featurette" was used to refer to these movies that ran longer than a short film, but shorter than the usual full-length. Hal Roach had a whole series of "streamliners", as he called them, in the 1940s. I've seen a few of these, and the running time works quite well for these comedies.

Anyway, I could go on, but the point is there were plenty of commercially-released feature films during the '30s and '40s that ran around the hour mark. It seems that once double features started to disappear in the '50s, films began to get longer in general. It seems that 70 minutes was sort of the extreme end of a short feature by the '50s and '60s, maybe reserved mostly for drive-in fare that would often be shown on a larger program. I remember in Ed Wood, the producer of Glen or Glenda tells Wood that he just has to make the film 70 minutes long in order for him to sell it. I think Corman's Little Shop of Horrors (1960) runs 69 minutes.

More recently, it seems like anything less than 90 minutes for a commercial theatrical feature is pretty rare. Most of the films I've seen in theaters in recent years are closer to 2 hours, with many running longer than that. Comedies may be an exception, but even those seem to have gotten quite a bit longer. I'd say generally that anything over 90 minutes for a comedy is really too long, and anything over two hours is lethal. Billy Wilder made some comedies like Some Like it Hot and The Apartment that ran over two hours, but I think in those cases he justified the length. And of course there was It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. I was astonished to see some of Judd Apatow's movies running over two hours in length, and I remember being similarly amazed that The Blues Brothers ran nearly two-and-a-quarter hours, though that was largely due to the music numbers.

I read that John Waters had a rule that his movies should never be longer than 90 minutes, and indeed they've all been in that range. It seems like a good strategy when you're aiming for theatrical release. Also it forces you to be judicious in your editing and really be more economic in what you're trying to accomplish.

I've seen some short, independent features on YouTube that ran around an hour or just over. These tend to be mostly improvised films shot in a single location with a limited number of actors, which can be quite effective. It's interesting to contrast these, though, with some of the B movies of old, which would pack so much in to their short running time. I would say that unless the material justifies it, even 60-70 minutes can be quite long for a truly no-budget film. It seems like streaming video really opens up the possibilities for micro-short films.

Three on a Match (1932)

Pre-Code melodrama about childhood friends Ann Dvorak, Joan Blondell, and Bette Davis whose lives remain intertwined as they grow up. Dvorak is the good girl who marries millionaire Warren William, but soon grows bored in their marriage and seeks escape with low-level crook Lyle Talbot. Meanwhile, troubled showgirl Joan Blondell steps in to take care of Dvorak's son and eventually marries her ex-husband as Dvorak descends further and further into a life of desperation. 

Davis unfortunately, isn't given much to do with her role and stays largely in the background. Apparently director Mervyn LeRoy was not happy with her performance here, which perhaps explains her lack of screentime in the final film.

Humphrey Bogart turns up in an early appearance as a gangster, and his star presence really dominates the scenes he appears in.

There's an inordinate amount of time spent on the newspaper headline montages showing the passing of the years through the events of the day. Aside from indicating the passage of time in the three friends' lives, it seems redundant after a point, especially since the whole film runs just 62 minutes.

Virginia Davis, star of Disney's silent Alice series, plays Blondell's character as a young girl in the opening scenes.

Half Shot at Sunrise (1930)

In this rollicking musical comedy, Wheeler and Woolsey are a couple of soldiers who go AWOL but have a chance to get in the good graces of the colonel and his daughter (the team's regular leading lady, Dorothy Lee) when they take a dangerous mission to deliver important papers to the front lines. 

Fatty Arbuckle did uncredited writing work on the screenplay. Also features the first film score by Max Steiner, who would go on to score dozens of films including King Kong and Gone with the Wind.

The film is in the public domain and can be downloaded at the Internet Archive.