Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Whispering Smith Speaks (1935)

George O'Brien plays the title role in the Fox film WHISPERING SMITH SPEAKS (1935).

O'Brien plays Gordon Harrington Jr., whose wealthy father (Frank Sheridan) is intent on handing him the family business on a silver platter...eventually. Meantime he doesn't have much for Gordon to do other than sit in an office stamping his signature on documents.

Gordon feels useless so one day he quits the family business and heads west. He hires on with a small railroad, the Blake Line, run by Nan Roberts (Irene Ware). Not wanting to give his own very well-known name, Gordon says his name is John Smith. He begins learning the railroad business from the ground up, walking tracks and handling maintenance.

Eventually "Smith" protects Nan from selling land she believes is worthless; Gordon is suspicious about its value and learns she's sitting on valuable property filled with tungsten.

This is a pleasant but very minor O'Brien film, chiefly enjoyable due to the fact that O'Brien is onscreen for most of the 65-minute running time. The film also has some very interesting rural railroad footage; I'd love to know where it was filmed but so far haven't had any luck.

There's also a fun scene near the end where O'Brien rides a sidecar as a motorcyclist tries to get him somewhere in a hurry. Again, it would be interesting to know the city where that was filmed.

The movie was directed by David Howard, who worked with O'Brien on many of his very good "B" Westerns. It was filmed by Frank B. Good.

The cast also includes Maude Allen, Kenneth Thomson, Spencer Charters, Edward Keane, and Si Jenks. Frequent bit player Bess Flowers has a larger-than-usual speaking role as Gordon's secretary near the beginning of the movie.

This isn't a particularly easy movie to find; I watched a "gray market" copy that was in fairly good shape, other than a bad moment here or there. It would certainly be nice if all of O'Brien's early Fox work would be available "on demand" or by another viewing method!

Addressing that issue and more, I did find a nice 2011 piece on this film by Steve at Mystery File, an excellent site where I frequently find reviews and interesting bits of info on otherwise obscure films. There's a lengthy quote by historian Ed Hulse about his relationship with O'Brien; at the 2016 Lone Pine Film Festival I was privileged to hear Ed discuss getting to know O'Brien.

Quoting from that blog post, Ed said, "I often cite WHISPERING SMITH SPEAKS -- which is really a romantic comedy, not a blood-and-thunder action piece -- as the film whose protagonist best represents the real George O’Brien: warm, funny, gregarious, supremely self-assured without being arrogant. It’s well worth seeking out for that reason alone, although it’s never been commercially available on any home video format. You can only get it in bootleg VHS or DVD versions."


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

"...chiefly enjoyable due to the fact that O'Brien is onscreen for most of the 65-minute running time."

Well, I'm sold!

Nice to hear the words of Ed Hulse. Thanks for sharing in your article.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Always great to hear from a fellow O'Brien fan. :)

Glad I found that nice piece to share!

Best wishes,

11:55 PM  

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