Monday 5 February 2007

Cain and Mabel (1936) Lloyd Bacon

Warner Brothers present a Cosmopolitan Production, with Marion Davies credited above Clark Gable, a major feat for 1936, and a surprising one given that Davies only had one film left in her after this one. She's the Mabel of the title, Mabel O'Dare, a waitress who loses her job due to fast talking Roscoe Karns who tries to make up by making her a Broadway star. Through misadventure rather than talent, he manages it and she has to work up until the last minute to get her routines down pat. Unfortunately Larry Cain is in the room one floor up in the hotel, and he's trying to sleep before his world title fight at Madison Square Garden the next day.

Why the hotel would give precedence to a Broadway showgirl who hadn't even appeared on stage yet over a heavyweight contender I really don't know, but there's not a lot of realism here. The other half of the story has Cain not earning any money because of poor gate receipts, even after he works his way back up to the top and wins the championship. So their respective managers decide to join forces and build both their reputations by throwing in a non-existent romance, without either of them initially knowing about it and then without their approval.

It turns out that there are two reasons why Davies is credited above Gable. The first is that there's a lot more of her than him and the second is that she's a far better comedian. My experience so far, and this is my eighth Marion Davies picture, is that as long as it's a comedy she's probably going to be fine; the more dramatic the film, the less worthy it's likely to be. However this one falls down not for not being a comedy, just for not being a funny one. It really doesn't bring many laughs and that's mostly the fault of the material.

It was more fun watching the extras: Allen Jenkins is third on the credit list but doesn't get much of a part as Gable's trainer; Roscoe Karns is fourth as Davies's manager, but he doesn't get much to do either. Ruth Donnelly is in there too to offer a few wisecracks, and I don't think she knew how not to be funny. There's even a tiny bit of E E Clive, better known as Bulldog Drummond's man Tenny. He gets nothing to do here either, which seems to be a common theme for everyone below leading status. If only it didn't really count for the leads too, the film might have been salvageable, but unfortunately it just ends up as another film without anything to say for it.

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