Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Wanted! Jane Turner (1936)

I recently finished watching all four films in the Warner Archive's Lee Tracy RKO Collection.

Having enjoyed all of them, I had a yen to see more of Tracy and pulled WANTED! JANE TURNER (1936) out of my "to be watched" stack (tower!). It's another RKO film which I recorded from Turner Classic Movies some time back.

WANTED! JANE TURNER is a most engaging film which would be a great candidate for a Volume 2 collection of Tracy's films. He and Gloria Stuart (TITANIC) play Tom Mallory and Doris Martin, sparring postal investigators on the trail of a crook (Paul Guilfoyle) who murdered a mail delivery driver.

I sometimes think no studio made better programmers than RKO, and this 66-minute film is a great example. Tracy and Stuart are a lot of fun as the dueling detectives, who constantly bicker but clearly enjoy doing so and are actually crazy about each other. There's a fun bit near the end when, after Tracy tells her to just open a couple of cans for dinner, Stuart serves him a rather nasty-looking dinner of sardines and spinach -- then to his great joy later replaces it with his real meal, steak and a baked potato.

Some may not think of Tracy as leading man material, but I admit that on occasion I find him rather appealing, and that's the case in this film. He and Stuart have a nice bantering style. It's also interesting to see Stuart and Tracy acting as professional equals in a '30s film; indeed, it's Stuart who ultimately fires a key shot, right through her purse! Though she's a good cook, there's no talk of her retiring after marriage; instead, Tracy tells his boss that he'll always be able to count on the Mallorys, plural.

WANTED! JANE TURNER also boasts some of RKO's trademark Art Deco style, with a gorgeous hotel sequence. Even RKO's lower-budget films look good! There are some interesting L.A. locations which give the film added interest.

The movie has a solid cast, including Guilfoyle, who I've commented before seems to have been in every other RKO film of the '30s! Frank M. Thomas has a nice role as a mail clerk, with some touching scenes in which he and Tracy conspire to help a hard-up elderly man (Lee Kohlmar). Barbara Pepper has a good role as a blond "bad girl"; there's a fun scene where the police get her to crack and spill what she knows simply by annoying her making odd noises!

The cast also includes Ann Preston, John McGuire, Irene Franklin, and Patricia Wilder.

Bess Flowers has a couple of lines as a hotel mail desk clerk. The idea that a hotel would have its own mail desk was an interesting look back into the past, in and of itself. I also loved the hotel mail chute; that's a fixture which has disappeared just like pay phones.

WANTED! JANE TURNER was directed by Edward Killy and filmed by Robert de Grasse.

As much as I love better-known classic films, I really enjoy "treasure hunting" through movies such as this and discovering what they have to offer. WANTED! JANE TURNER was a particularly worthwhile find. It's never had a VHS or DVD release, but hopefully the Warner Archive will make it more widely available at a future date.

April 2017 Update: WANTED! JANE TURNER is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive! My review of the DVD is here.


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