Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Straight is the Way (1934)

In a Depression-era New York tenement, Ma Horowitz (May Robson) is ready to light the Sabbath candles, but delays until her son Benny (Franchot Tone) walks in the door -- home from five long years in prison. Joining in the reunion is Bertha (Karen Morley), a sweet teacher who was taken in by Mrs. Horowitz after Bertha's mother died; Bertha has long loved Benny and harbors secret hopes he might one day return her affection. First, however, Benny has to turn his back on his former mob associates and old girlfriend (Gladys George) and make up his mind that STRAIGHT IS THE WAY.

This was an interesting little movie, which runs a lightning-paced 59 minutes. It's not often that a Jewish family is at the center of a film from Hollywood's Classic Era. (The pre-Code film SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION, starring Ricardo Cortez and Irene Dunne, is another that comes to mind.) Franchot Tone is somewhat miscast as a tough guy, but seeing the usually elegant Tone in this kind of role is part of what makes the film fun. The movie has plenty of angles to keep it entertaining, including an action-packed finale.

The cast also includes Nat Pendleton, Jack LaRue, C. Henry Gordon, William Bakewell, and John Qualen.

Karen Morley and Franchot Tone also appeared together in 1933's GABRIEL OVER THE WHITE HOUSE, which has been released on video. One of Morley's best-known roles was that of Charlotte Lucas, who marries the Rev. Mr. Collins in the Garson-Olivier PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. A theater class at UCLA was the start of Morley's acting career. She had over 45 film credits between the late '20s and early '50s, then disappeared from the screen during the McCarthy era. She did some episodic TV work in the '70s. Morley passed away in 2003, aged 93.

STRAIGHT IS THE WAY was directed by Paul Sloane. It was based on a play called FOUR WALLS cowritten by the great Broadway writer-director George Abbott.

This film is not available on DVD or video, but can be seen via Turner Classic Movies.


Blogger Carrie said...

Watched that one the other day as well. During the entire movie I kept repeating "just kiss the girl already..." I loved how FT's character manhandled Monk!

3:35 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

"During the entire movie I kept repeating 'just kiss the girl already...'"

My thoughts exactly, LOL.

So glad you saw it too. It was a fun little movie. I'm glad I taped it.
Best wishes,

3:41 PM  

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