Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Adventure in Manhattan (1936)

Six years after costarring in THE SILVER HORDE (1930), Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur were reunited in a lightweight but more entertaining film, ADVENTURE IN MANHATTAN.

ADVENTURE IN MANHATTAN is one in a long line of "screwball mysteries" made in the '30s -- movies which were half mystery, half romantic comedy. In the case of ADVENTURE IN MANHATTAN, it starts off on a more serious note than one might expect; indeed, an early scene with Arthur is rather disturbingly creepy. However, the film soon finds its feet and picks up speed, becoming an enjoyable whodunit. One wishes it had been even better, given the caliber of the leads, but it has enough fun moments to be worthwhile.

McCrea plays a know-it-all crime reporter matching wits against master thief Reginald Owen (perhaps best known to many as Admiral Boom in MARY POPPINS). By day Owen's character is a Broadway producer whose latest play stars Jean Arthur. McCrea and Arthur are appealing in the leads, although their best work together was still ahead of them in THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943).

This was just the third film made by Thomas Mitchell, who plays McCrea's exasperated editor. Mitchell, of course, would go on to great supporting roles such as Gerald O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND and Uncle Billy in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. He costarred in other classics including LOST HORIZON, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, STAGECOACH, and ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS.

Movie trivia fans may want to take note of the character Miss Arnold, the beauty salon attendant seen early in the film. She is played by Bess Flowers, who made a career out of bit parts, with over 740 credits to her name at IMDb.

ADVENTURE IN MANHATTAN was directed by Edward Ludwig. It runs 73 minutes.

ADVENTURE IN MANHATTAN is not yet available on DVD or VHS, but it can be seen as part of the library on Turner Classic Movies.

Update: This film is now available on DVD in the TCM Vault Collection's Jean Arthur Comedy Collection.


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