Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Speed (1936) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

What better movie to watch on Daytona 500 Sunday than a film titled SPEED (1936)? It's an early James Stewart film just released by the Warner Archive.

Stewart's first screen appearance was an unbilled role in a short released in 1934, and he had appeared in supporting roles in a half-dozen additional films prior to the release of SPEED. The 70-minute film SPEED was his first starring role, a chance to show he could carry the lead in a picture.

Stewart plays Terry Martin, a test driver for a factory who develops a new type of carburetor. On the side he alternates fighting with and romancing the new publicity woman, Jane Mitchell (Wendy Barrie), who is hiding the fact she's the niece of the factory owner (Ralph Morgan).

Despite its title, SPEED is a fairly slow-moving affair, and it doesn't help it was clearly made on a low budget, with back projections galore. That said, one of the most interesting scenes in the movie is a back projection tour of a car factory. The stock footage of the manufacturing process was interesting!

Stewart and Barrie make a cute couple, but all in all the film is a pleasant time passer but not much more.

Stewart would go on to play a key supporting role in AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936) and was the second billed male lead in a couple additional pictures, but by 1938 he was firmly established as a full-fledged star.

Patricia Wilder is amusing in a small role as a secretary who speaks in a Southern drawl and chases after Stewart's assistant (Ted Healy). This was Wilder's first screen role; she appeared in 11 more films before leaving the screen after THANKS FOR THE MEMORY (1938). In 1951 she married a prince, to whom she was married until his death in 1984. When Wilder died in 1995 the New York Times published an obituary, although a Wikipedia entry says the Times story was inaccurate in some respects.

The supporting cast also includes Weldon Heyburn, Una Merkel, Walter Kingsford, and George Chandler.

SPEED was directed by Edwin L. Marin and photographed by Lester White.

The Warner Archive DVD is a fine print. The disc includes the trailer.

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 at the Warner Archive website.


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