Sunday, July 01, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Band Plays On (1934) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Robert Young and Preston Foster star in the football-centered melodrama THE BAND PLAYS ON (1934), recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Tony (Young), Stuffy (Stu Erwin), Rosy (William Tannen), and Mike (Russell Hardie) are a quartet of juvenile delinquents. (The foursome are played as teenagers by David Durand, Norman Phillips Jr., Sidney Miller, and Beaudine Anderson.) A wise judge (Purnell Pratt) doesn't send the boys to reform school but instead hands them over to a youth football coach, Howard "Howdy" Hardy (Foster).

The boys catch the football bug and under Howdy's tutelage make their way up the ranks to become college football stars, with Howdy as their coach.

Eventually there is some dissension in the ranks: Tony and Stuffy both love Mike's sister Kitty (Betty Furness), Tony is tempted by a pro offer pushed by Mike's brother Joe (Ted Healy), and Stuffy is in a devastating car wreck.

The movie is pleasant if overlong at 85 minutes; it should have been 10 minutes shorter. That said, the genial Foster's performance as the wise coach is a big part of what makes the movie worthwhile. I also enjoyed the college camaraderie of the four boys and Kitty, who acts as a sort of den mother for the boys, watching their money and darning their socks.

In the '30s Young seemed to play more than his share of egotistical young men who need to have the arrogance knocked out of them -- NAVY BLUE AND GOLD (1937) being another title -- but maybe that's because he was so good at it. Erwin is particularly effective playing a character rather less genial than one is used to seeing from the actor. Hardie and Tannen make less of an impression but as a group the four have nice chemistry.

There are a number of interesting faces in the supporting cast including Leo Carrillo, Charles Lane, and Joe Sawyer (then billed as Joseph Sauers).

THE BAND PLAYS ON was directed by Russell Mack and filmed by Leonard Smith. The film incorporates some stock footage of L.A.'s Memorial Coliseum. I'd be interested to learn the film's other locations but haven't been able to find anything.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print, a little on the soft side as one might expect from a film released in 1934, but no major defects and a strong soundtrack. 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 from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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