Saturday, February 06, 2016

Tonight's Movie: The Affairs of Annabel (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Lucille Ball plays movie star Annabel Allison in THE AFFAIRS OF ANNABEL (1938), just released by the Warner Archive.

THE AFFAIRS OF ANNABEL is part of a two-film set, with the second title being ANNABEL TAKES A TOUR (1938). These RKO "B" films were released two months apart in September and November of 1938.

Annabel is a high-strung actress who perennially finds herself in scrapes thanks to crazy schemes dreamed up by studio publicity man Lanny Morgan (Jack Oakie). As the movie begins, Annabel has just unhappily spent a month in prison as part of a publicity stunt for her new "prison" movie.

In her next film, THE MAID AND THE MAN, Annabel will be playing the titular maid, so naturally Lanny decides to get Annabel a domestic service job in an "ordinary" American household, which will later be revealed for publicity when the new picture comes out. Unfortunately, Annabel's employers, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher (Granville Bates and Elisabeth Risdon), have their home taken over by two crooks (Anthony Warde and Eddie Marr), leading to all manner of unexpected complications.

THE AFFAIRS OF ANNABEL is by no means a great movie, but it's got the elegant RKO "look" which made their "B" films so classy, and it's also got a solid cast. I found it an amusing 68 minutes.

Ball looks gorgeous as the movie star, and though I find a little of Oakie goes a long way, his screen time is balanced enough with other cast members that he's tolerable. In fact, he has quite a funny scene with Leona Roberts (Mrs. Meade of GWTW) as an out-of-work actress posing as his mother; in between their "scene," staged for Annabel's benefit, they haggle in whispers over her pay.

The presence of Ruth Donnelly in a comedy always makes it worth watching, and indeed, she probably has the best moments, constantly second-guessing her studio head boss (Bradley Page) while she also cracks wise in reaction to the crazies around her. Plus she gets to sit at a desk in a great RKO Art Deco office -- with a large photo of Richard Dix over her shoulder!

Movie fans may recognize British actor John Sutton (A YANK IN THE R.A.F.) in an early role, as the customer at a roadside stand. Kane Richmond (STAGE STRUCK) is a detective at the end of the movie.

The cast also includes James Burke, Fritz Feld, Thurston Hall, Lee Van Atta, and Charles Coleman, who has a funny scene where loses his high-class "butler" tones.

Fans of RKO B's might enjoy noting that Annabel's studio, Wonder Pictures, was also the studio in CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938), released by RKO earlier that year. CRASHING HOLLYWOOD was directed by Lew Landers, who did uncredited work on THE AFFAIRS OF ANNABEL; the credited director was Benjamin Stoloff.

The movie was filmed in attractive black and white by Russell Metty. Bert Granet and Paul Yawitz wrote the screenplay, based on a story by Charles Hoffman.

The print in the new Warner Archive "double feature" set is excellent. There are no extras.

Update: My review of the second film in the set, ANNABEL TAKES A TOUR, may be found here.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds fun and it's a Lucille Ball film I haven't seen.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

This seems like the kind of "B" film we both enjoy, VIenna! And it's a good-looking release, too.

Best wishes,

2:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

As a Lucy fan for over 20 years this is a real treat for any serious fan. I have seen all of I Love Lucy (including the Comedy Hour), a good portion of Lucy Show and Here's Lucy but never got to see many of her films.

These RKO films are hard to come by and aren't commonly known compared to Lucy's later work. I watched the RKO Collection which was three films plus the other DVD set that included Fuller Brush Girl.

I managed to catch a little of Affairs of Annabel back in August 2011 on Lucy's 100th birthday but never saw the entire movie. Now I have an opportunity. Granted these movies aren't anything special but they are a godsend for longtime Lucy fans.

12:31 AM  

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