Monday 10 December 2007

Man Wanted (1932) William Dieterle

Here's Kay Francis again, this time with backup from actors of the calibre of David Manners, Una Merkel and Andy Devine. You can tell it's a precode because Kay Francis is a managing editor and David Manners is her male secretary, while she's married to a loafer of a husband who's cheating on her with Claire Dodd and he's engaged to Una Merkel. We're at The 400 Magazine, which Lois Ames runs and to which the French & Sprague sporting goods company wants to sell a rowing machine. Manners and Devine are salesmen and their company thinks that a sale to Mrs Ames would create wonderful publicity.

So off Manners runs to demonstrate the machine at nine at night, and ends up landing a job as her secretary along with the sale. Naturally they end up falling for each other as they're a perfect match, but all the clunkiness of Transgression has vanished to be replaced by some clever sophistication, making their love affair a continually imminent thing. As hard working professionals, both the leads have their work to use as a barrier between their personal lives and they have the talent to make that believable.

Kay Francis was always an actress of class and she shone when she was given material of substance to work with, and I've become more and more impressed by David Manners with every film of his that I see. When I first saw him, he just seemed like a sap who got to share the screen with greater talents, but each subsequent film I catch shows that there are depths in his performances that merely require a little attention to really see. I really need to revisit his most famous role in Dracula, because films like The Last Flight and especially The Miracle Woman have made me a solid fan of his.

It's not just their performances that make this film work, as the script is as cleverly put together as Transgression's wasn't and the direction from William Dieterle is as solid as you'd expect. Mostly though it's the two leads, who shine both in their own regards and as a screen couple. I'm surprised that given their chemistry here, they never made another film together.

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