Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Wide Open (1930) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Edward Everett Horton has a rare leading man role starring in the comedy WIDE OPEN (1930), recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Horton plays Simon, a worker bee toiling at a phonograph company. He's abused by some of his fellow coworkers while also putting up with the pursuit of marriage-minded Agatha (Louise Fazenda), in whom he has no interest.

Then one evening Simon finds a mysterious young lady (Patsy Ruth Miller) hiding in his home, and his life is turned upside-down, ultimately for the better.

This is a fairly creaky pre-Code, and let's face it, Edward Everett Horton isn't anyone's idea of a leading man, even back in 1930. (That said, his strong performance opposite Arline Judge in 1933's ROAR OF THE DRAGON is the exception that proves the rule.) The film moseys along, especially at the outset, but is made watchable by its short 69-minute run time and the performances of Miller and Louise Beavers, who plays Simon's maid.

Miller is a real charmer who brings energy to her every scene; at the end she even makes you believe she wants to marry the "sweet" Horton. In a way it's a shame that her character's motivations are left unknown until the last scene of the film, as it would have been helpful to have more insight into who she was as the movie went along. I really enjoyed her and would like to see more of her performances, which include THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923).

Beavers is always wonderful, and particularly beloved to me for HOLIDAY INN (1942) a dozen years later. Her reactions to the incomprehensible new goings-on in her formerly staid empoyer's home are delightful. Beavers could always be counted on to bring an extra "something" to a movie.

Overall it's a pretty weak movie, but even an iffy film has its rewards -- here introducing me to Miller and providing another wonderful character role for Beavers.

WIDE OPEN was directed by Archie Mayo and filmed by Ben Reynolds.

The Warner Archive DVD print has an "old" look to it, with a slightly soft picture and sound, but for an early talkie overall it's in good shape. There are no extras.

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 from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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