Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Times Square Lady (1935)

TIMES SQUARE LADY started out on the slow side, but it proved to be a pleasant film showcasing the young Robert Taylor.

Midwestern girl Toni Bradley (Virginia Bruce) inherits numerous New York City business interests from her father, but the crooked managers of his businesses are determined to swindle her out of her inheritance. Steve Gordon (Taylor), the manager of a nightclub inherited by Toni, finds himself falling for her and risks his life to protect her finances from the bad guys.

That's about all there is to the plot of this 68-minute film, but it has its pleasures, ranging from the chance to see the very young Robert Taylor, in his first role as a starring leading man, to the crooning of one Pinky Tomlin, to the crazy sight of Ward Bond, in a hideously striped uniform, playing a murderous hockey player. The film is sort of musical meets mob movie -- you never know where it's going next.

Taylor was 23 when he filmed TIMES SQUARE LADY -- so young that his voice hadn't quite deepened into the sound familiar from his films of the '40s and '50s. He's got a kind of raw talent in this -- you can "see the wheels turning" just a bit as he acts, but he's got charisma and an appeal that would carry him through the longest career any actor spent at a single studio, MGM, in Hollywood history.

I've enjoyed Virginia Bruce in films such as THERE GOES MY HEART (1938), YELLOW JACK (1938), and THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS (1938), but this was not one of her better film performances. She played the role in a rather flat, bland manner, and the script didn't do her any favors fleshing out her nondescript role. It also must be said her appearance is not displayed to best advantage in this film. Isabel Jewell, as a manicurist who becomes Bruce's companion, is much more vivacious and interesting than the film's leading lady.

I'd never heard of Pinky Tomlin, but his song "The Object of My Affection" is catchy, and his performance of this and "What's the Reason I'm Not Pleasin' You" helps makes the film enjoyable.

The supporting cast includes Nat Pendleton, Helen Twelvetrees, Jack La Rue, and Henry Kolker.

The movie was directed by George B. Seitz.

TIMES SQUARE LADY can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.

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