Saturday, March 04, 2017

Tonight's Movie: I Take This Woman (1931) at the UCLA Festival of Preservation

Last night the 2017 UCLA Festival of Preservation celebrated a wonderful opening night.

The festival kicked off with a sold-out double bill of the Ernst Lubitsch classic TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932) and the long-lost I TAKE THIS WOMAN (1931), an early starring vehicle for Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard.

The evening began with the surviving fragments of an oddball short, VOICE OF HOLLYWOOD (1931), unseen by audiences since the year of its release. The format is a faux radio show, with Walter Huston singing, Bela Lugosi discussing performing scary roles, and Jean Harlow answering questions from fans. As was noted in the introduction, it was particularly appropriate to screen that short on March 3rd as it was Harlow's birthday.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE and I TAKE THIS WOMAN were both screened in 35mm. I hadn't seen TROUBLE IN PARADISE for a number of years, and it was my first opportunity to see it on a big screen. Needless to say, it was wonderful enjoying this lighter-than-air comedy with an audience! I appreciated it more than ever; a true must-see film.

We had the privilege of being the first U.S. theater audience to see I TAKE THIS WOMAN since the year of its release!

I TAKE THIS WOMAN was based on the story "Lost Ecstasy" by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Rinehart, in fact, was responsible for the film being unseen for so long; at one point the story and film rights reverted to her, as was apparently common in the era, and she kept a 16mm print and tossed out the 35mm negative.

The film was originally intended to star Nancy Carroll, but Paramount instead decided to use it to help develop Lombard into a star. Lombard plays Kay Dowling, a spoiled, headstrong wealthy Easterner who is banished to the family ranching property in Wyoming following her latest escapades.

Bored Kay decides to make quiet cowboy Tom McNair (Cooper) fall in love with her, but she's caught in her own trap and falls in love with him as well. Tom and Kay marry, despite Kay's father disowning her over it, and they go to live in a one-room house on the cattle ranch Tom hopes to build up.

The house is shabby and desolate, and with its uninsulated walls, it looks believably freezing in the middle of the snowy winter, when they must share their living space (and its big fireplace) with an orphaned calf in order to keep it alive.

Tom and Kay genuinely love each other, with a Christmas sequence being a touching standout, as they lovingly surprise one another with shabby gifts they can barely afford.

Love is not enough, however, and with the coming of spring Kay retreats to the East and plans a divorce...only to realize that, as tough as the past months had been, they were also filled with meaning and accomplishment. The return to her past frivolous lifestyle of parties and socializing loses its appeal.

I found this a very solid and entertaining film. Though it was introduced as not having particular significance, other than seeing the leads before they were full-blown stars, I found it quite engrossing; it reminded me a bit of the following year's THE PURCHASE PRICE (1932) with Barbara Stanwyck, in which she plays a singer who evades a mobster by becoming the mail order bride of a North Dakota farmer (George Brent).

Even in this early role, Lombard exudes intelligence as she takes her character from glamorous brat to dowdy farm wife weilding a scrub brush and keeping a pot of hot coffee at the ready on the stove. The wacky side so familiar from her comedies peeks through occasionally, such as her reaction in the scene when cowhands present her with a stuffed animal head as a wedding gift.

Cooper was tall and handsome, of course, and I liked that Lombard's Kay couldn't manipulate his steely character. Even as she plans a divorce, he's one step ahead of her. I particularly liked a moment when he shooed away her persistent ex-boyfriend (Lester Vail).

The supporting cast includes Helen Ware, Charles Trowbridge, Clara Blandick, and Syd Saylor.

I TAKE THIS WOMAN was directed by Marion Gering and filmed by Victor Milner. It runs 72 minutes.

Coming next: An account of an afternoon of silent comedies featuring GOOD REFERENCES (1920) and THE POOR NUT (1927).


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older