Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Boy Meets Girl (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

BOY MEETS GIRL (1938), starring James Cagney and Pat O'Brien, is part of a "wave" of Cagney films recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

BOY MEETS GIRL is a fairly loud, raucous type comedy -- think of THE FRONT PAGE (1931) or HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) with fast-talking screenwriters instead of fast-talking reporters. Interestingly enough, O'Brien, who plays one of the screenwriters, also starred in THE FRONT PAGE.

The plot is a bunch of nonsense in which Cagney and O'Brien make a movie star out of the infant son of an unwed (sort of) mother, played by Marie Wilson. Cowboy star Larry Toms (Dick Foran) is none too happy about sharing the screen with an infant. Meanwhile a British extra (Bruce Lester) falls in love with the baby's mother, and producer C. Elliott Friday (Ralph Bellamy) tries to keep his job.

Cagney's character has zero depth and is simply a nonstop goof, while O'Brien has a touch more nuance playing a character with a troubled marriage, though his wife is never once seen on screen. Still, there are enough good actors and amusing moments poking fun at the film industry to make this movie worth catching, and with its nonstop action there isn't time for it to be dull.

Although there are a handful of fun scenes on the Warner Bros. lot which open up the story and provide a peek at the studio in its heyday, this is very much a filmed stage play; you can even spot the moments where the Act One and Two curtains came down. The original play by Sam and Bella Spewack opened on Broadway in 1935 with Jerome Cowan and Allyn Joslyn in the parts played by Pat O'Brien and James Cagney in the film; George Abbott directed.

Bellamy is delightful as the dimwitted filmmaker who doesn't know trumpets from trombones and is trying to save "Young England" (a movie) in the editing room. (Look for John Ridgely in a near-wordless scene as an editor conferencing with Bellamy.) And one of the funniest performances in the film comes from Ronald Reagan, who has one scene as a radio announcer at a movie premiere; he tries to save an interview with Susie which is veering ever further out of control.

In small roles look for Rosella Towne as a nurse and Peggy Moran as a New York operator. I had trouble believing the commissary cashier was Carole Landis -- she's only seen in profile -- but that's what IMDb says. Other roles are played by Frank McHugh, Peggy Singleton,and Curt Bois.

The movie was directed by Lloyd Bacon and filmed by Sol Polito.

As is typically the case for Warner Archive films, it's a fine-looking DVD which provides a good viewing experience. The DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


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