Thursday 23 October 2008

Brief Moment (1933)

This time out Carole Lombard's on more familiar territory in light hearted melodrama and in the lead. This is obviously based on a play, given the way that we're literally introduced to everyone in a drawing room in the first few minutes. Officially this is for the benefit of Abby Fane, a singer at the Club Biarritz, who is going to marry Rodney Deane. He's throwing her to the lions, in the form of an introduction to his family, led by a millionaire father and a mother who thinks all about breeding and poise. Needless to say she's not up to snuff, given that Rodney's sister married a French count. 'Do you have to marry her to adore her?' they ask.

Even though his parents are quite obviously not thrilled, they marry anyway and head off for a long honeymoon in Europe, prompting plenty of press attention. Back in the States, that continues as the Deanes live a social life on his $4,000 monthly allowance, on the town every night, drinking, gambling, attending all the premieres, having a great time. Unfortunately that starts wearing Abby down because having a great time seems to be all that her husband lives for. 'You can't live your life having a good time', she suggests, but his only answer is that 'I can try' and he's as good as his word.

This is hardly a deep story but maybe it achieve a little beyond merely being there. Lombard is fine but there's nothing much for her to make something of: mostly she's a firm foundation to the movie and to the character she's playing opposite. While she's officially the lead, even in 1933 worthy of a higher credit than co-star Gene Raymond, his is really the main part because it's the only one that actually has any substance. That introductory scene in the drawing room does more than provide us with names, it gives us the characters of almost everyone in the story right then and there. The only one who has any need to change is Rodney Deane though it takes him a long while to find it out.

Gene Raymond is decent here, as he tended to be, but also not exactly spectacular, again as he tended to be. He's best known to me as the other guy in Red Dust, in which I can't fault him but also can't help but comment that he was completely outshone by Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Mary Astor. I've seen him elsewhere too and that trend seems to have been a regular one: he's outshone in Flying Down to Rio by Dolores del Rio and in Mr & Mrs Smith by Lombard and Robert Montgomery, but in both he gave a capable performance. There's not much opportunity for anyone to really outshine him here, though Arthur Hohl and Monroe Owsley do manage it on occasion, but once more he fails to light up the screen. I can't find a single think to dislike about his work but somehow he still disappoints.

What else disappoints is that this is 1933 but it doesn't play out like a precode at all. To anyone watching when it was released, it must have felt very tame indeed. The most outrageous thing in it is the suggestion that vice presidents of big companies, who hold their positions only through being the son of the boss, don't actually do any real work. In a year that brought us films like King Kong, Queen Christina, Ecstasy, Duck Soup, 42nd Street, Heroes for Sale, Employees' Entrance and more, this one fades in comparison.

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