Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Silver Queen (1942)

SILVER QUEEN is a romantic soap opera of the 1870s, with a "meh" plot made watchable by two favorite stars.

Coralie Adams (Priscilla Lane) is engaged to upstanding Gerald Forsythe (Bruce Cabot) when she lays eyes on gambler James Kincaid (George Brent) at a New York charity dance. It's attraction at first sight, and Coralie's interest deepens when she realizes that Kincaid has a gambler's heart like her own.

Coralie's father (Eugene Pallette) loses everything in a stock market crash, and Coralie resolves to pay off his creditors. She postpones marriage to Gerald, leaves town and ultimately becomes the operator of the "Silver Queen," a gambling palace in San Francisco. As the years pass she sends Gerald the money to pay off her father's debts. Unfortunately, Gerald puts the money to another use, with disastrous results, and both he and Kincaid re-enter Coralie's life.

SILVER QUEEN has a blessedly brisk pace at 80 minutes, as the story is really rather silly. Sweet Priscilla Lane as a gambling queen is a bit hard to believe; it's a role which would have been more appropriate for someone with more of an edge, such as George Brent's then-wife Ann Sheridan.

The idea that several years pass with the characters' relationships almost frozen in time is odd, as is the notion that a young man of society would still plan to marry a woman who's gone off for years to run a gambling house.

There are also some important issues which would have been cleared up if Brent and Lane had just communicated directly; if only he'd presented her with her father's mine personally, or asked about it years later. And him leaving for Nevada City without seeing her first was a mistake as well!

All that said, I love both Brent and Lane and since one of them is on screen in most scenes I had no difficulty remaining interested in the film, even though I didn't really care much for the material. They're both charmers, and a scene where he takes her home after a night at the theater effectively conveys romantic longing on the part of both characters. I was glad I took the time to see them in it and just wish they'd had a more interesting and believable script.

Cabot does well as a seeming nice guy who gradually reveals layers of sleaze, most shockingly when he's trying to get a loan from his increasingly startled mother (Janet Beecher). The cast also includes Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Lynne Overman, Spencer Charters, Marietta Canty, and Sam McDaniel (erroneously billed as McDaniels). This was one of the earliest credits for Arthur Hunnicutt.

The film was directed by Lloyd Bacon and filmed in black and white by Russell Harlan.

With the director and lead actors, one might assume this was a Warner Bros. movie, but the studio had packaged the talent and lent them out for the film, which was a United Artists release.

Victor Young received an Oscar nomination for his waltz-laden scoring of SILVER QUEEN. It was also nominated for Best Black and White Art Direction.

A noticeable blooper: The opening title card announces that it is 1873, immediately followed by someone reading a just-delivered newspaper clearly dated 1872.

SILVER QUEEN has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

February 2016 Update: Thanks to reader John G. for the info that SILVER QUEEN is now available on DVD from Grapevine Video.

September 2021 Update: SILVER QUEEN will be released on DVD by ClassicFlix this month as part of its Silver Series DVD line of affordable, underseen titles.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review of this seldom seen movie.

I agree with just about everything you said, as far as the story goes. What really held my interest, of course, was how beautiful Priscilla Lane was in this movie.

It's too bad that at what should have been the peak of her career she was doing movies like this.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for stopping by to read my thoughts and share your opinion of the film! I agree, Priscilla was lovely -- although I wondered if she had more hair on her head than humanly possible in a couple of scenes, LOL. Those elaborate rolls on the back of her head were something else!

Isn't it interesting she did both this and SABOTEUR in the same year? Wish she'd done more films like the latter.

Best wishes,

12:42 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I thought Silver Queen a charming picture and all the performers excellent. While there were holes in the story's construction, not more so, then in popular literature, Rex Beach variety, at the early part of the century. Not important. And, personally, I prefer Silver Queen to Saboteur. As a mini-epic it has enough of everything. As for Priscilla Lane's career, this was, more or less, the end of it.


12:48 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Four Daughters, and it s several sequels, official and unofficial, are very likely the Lane legacy. And, nothing wrong with that, especially the first film. John Garfield's performance in that is often praised at Jeffrey Lynn's expense. Not to my thinking.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I very much appreciate Jeffrey Lynn's contributions to the FOUR DAUGHTERS series as well. :)

Best wishes,

11:55 AM  
Blogger John G. said...

Laura, I know your review and the above comments are two years old, but thought I'd mention that "Silver Queen" was released last week by Grapevine Video and can be ordered through them on Amazon for $10.95 plus shipping.

I'd never heard of them before noticing the listing, so I don't know the quality of their work. It appears that "Silver Queen" is on DVD, not a DVD-R.

In any case, looking forward to seeing my girl Priscilla as a gambling queen. :-)

6:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you so much, John! I'm always happy when people take the time to look up an old review and add their comments or updated info such as this -- you'd be amazed how frequently older reviews are accessed by people looking for info on movies (a showing on TCM will especially trigger a lot of views). I just updated the main body of the post with the link.

Thanks again very much -- I'm sure your fellow Priscilla fans will especially appreciate it!

Best wishes,

8:29 AM  
Blogger John G. said...

I'll post some comments about the picture quality, etc. after I receive and watch the DVD.

Perhaps you could create a link along the left margin of your site where people could post new and upcoming release info as it is discovered. I mentioned this one and you post new releases from time to time (such as the Flicker Alleys in April), but a dedicated link would provide a handy resource and reminder about upcoming releases that people become aware of here but may forget about by the time the DVDs are actually out there. Just a thought...

10:08 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi again John!

I like your suggestion -- part of the problem with my doing it is my lack of "tech savvy" and also I'm in an old (some would say outdated) Blogger/Blogspot template which makes adding "fun stuff" to the sidebars much more of a challenge.

But I like the idea of a link going to some kind of page with upcoming and new releases of interest; I could easily add some kind of link, though in that case the biggest challenge would just be figuring out how to set up the page and what it would look like, how people could add to it, etc. Thanks for getting the wheels turning on ideas for the future! Much appreciated.

Best wishes,

7:20 PM  

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