Saturday, May 25, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Stand-In (1937) - A ClassicFlix Blu-ray Review

STAND-IN (1937) is a comedy which was released on Blu-ray earlier this year by ClassicFlix.

The Blu-ray is a lovely restored print. A card before the start of the movie explains that ClassicFlix had initially hoped to release the film in 2016 but the elements available were too damaged to make it possible at that time. A handful of years later, a print located in the UK made this new restoration possible.

Leslie Howard plays Atterbury Dodd, a very prim and proper accountant sent to Hollywood by Eastern bankers to investigate the true financial condition of Colossal Studios, as they decide whether to unload it at fire sale prices or hang on to the investment.

Dodd is a fish out of water in Hollywood, but fortunately he has a "meet cute" in a taxi with former child star turned stand-in and secretary Lester Plum (Joan Blondell). When Dodd is aghast at the daily rates at the hotel where he was booked to stay, he instead moves in at the boarding house where "Miss Plum" lives, and she shows him the ropes of the film business.

Dodd also gradually becomes friendly with producer Doug Quintain (Humphrey Bogart), who's a bit too fond of the bottle but a good guy at heart. (One of his character's funny ticks is that he takes his dog everywhere!) Miss Plum and Quintain teach Dodd about the movie business, and he also learns that the people who work at the studio aren't "units" who are cogs in a wheel, but hardworking people worthy of respect.

This is an enjoyable "behind-the-scenes" look at Hollywood, though at times it's a little too over the top -- the turkey of a movie which Dodd and Quintain decide to "fix" is so bad as to be unbelievable, even for a comedy. But perhaps that's quibbling. I love any chance to watch '30s film characters walk around soundstages or stand at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland!

The three leads are all very good; Howard and Blondell develop a sweet relationship, and I also enjoyed that Miss Plum's memorization skills from childhood days learning scripts prove to be very handy in a business setting! It was great to see the male costars of THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936) reunited. I enjoyed the respect which developed between accountant and producer.

My only real critical comment, other than some of the exaggerated scenes, is that it's basically a 75-minute movie in a 91-minute time frame. I think it could have been tightened up considerably and a brisker pace would have made for a funnier movie, too. At the same time, the movie left some plot threads a bit up in the air at the finale. If someone had whipped this script into a little better shape, it easily could have gone from "good" to "great" given the talents involved.

That said, I enjoyed watching this film for the first time and very much appreciated seeing a print which was in such good shape.

This United Artists release was directed by Tay Garnett (JOY OF LIVING, TRADE WINDS). It was shot in black and white by Charles Clarke.

It's fun to note that the three actors playing the Pettypacker bankers, Tully Marshall, J.C. Nugent, and William V. Mong, were born in 1864, 1868, and 1875, respectively. It's really something watching an actor who was alive during the Civil War! The cast also includes Alan Mowbray, Jack Carson, Marla Shelton, and C. Henry Gordon. Art Baker has a small role as a cinematographer.

The Blu-ray disc also includes a restoration comparison and trailers for additional films available from ClassicFlix.

STAND-IN is also available from ClassicFlix on DVD.

Thanks to ClassicFlix for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I was surprised when TCM neglected to include Stand-In the last time Leslie Howard was Star of the Month. I think the movie and Atterbury Dodd are adorable. Plus, we get an Esther Howard sighting!

4:59 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's interesting it wasn't shown then! If you get a chance to check this Blu-ray out, I think you'll enjoy how nice it looks. :)

Best wishes,

6:59 PM  

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