Sunday, December 30, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Janie (1944) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

JANIE (1944) is part of a two-film double feature set just released by the Warner Archive. It's paired with the sequel JANIE GETS MARRIED (1946). I'm really delighted that these films have finally come to DVD!

Joyce Reynolds stars as the titular Janie, a giddy (and slyly manipulative) high schooler who's part of a lively high school crowd. She may be young, but she's ready to push her longtime beau Scooper (Richard Erdman) aside in favor of a Yale man in uniform (Robert Hutton) who comes for a visit with his mother Thelma (Barbara Brown).

Thelma is an old friend of Janie's parents, newspaper publisher Charles Conway (Edward) and his wife Lucille (Ann Harding). Janie's annoying young sister Elsbeth (Clare Foley) and housekeeper April (Hattie McDaniel) round out the Conway household.

Janie's father frets over his boy-crazy daughter, never more so than when an Army camp opens near their town. Little does he know what's in store...it all builds to a riotous party in the Conway home with soldiers (and one sailor) everywhere, not to mention MP's and the police!

This is a fun family comedy somewhat in the vein of the DEAR RUTH (1947) films and WALLFLOWER (1948), all of which featured Arnold as the father; Reynolds, Hutton, and Brown also appeared in WALLFLOWER. It's not quite as charming as either DEAR RUTH or WALLFLOWER, due in part to the relentless nature of Reynolds' character, but it's a fun watch.

I have always enjoyed Reynolds and especially like her in a more subdued role in WALLFLOWER, as well as in a smaller role as one of the sisters in THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943). Her Janie never quite achieves the level of realism as her role in WALLFLOWER, I think in part because of how the role is written; she goes from one zany experience to the next, seemingly without ever pausing for breath -- or thinking things through. She's fun, but we never really know what's going on inside.

Similarly, with the exception of a couple of scenes with Harding, Arnold's mostly one note in this, continually exasperated by his daughters (and with good reason...).

Reynolds and Hutton are an appealing team; in addition to WALLFLOWER they also costarred in ALWAYS TOGETHER (1947). The supporting cast also includes Robert Benchley, whose character is living with the family and courts Thelma.

In the climactic party scenes look for the Williams Brothers to sing, and Jimmie Dodd of THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB is also on hand. Julie London can be spotted in the crowd as well! Janie's friends include Colleen Townsend, Ann Gillis, and Virginia Patton (Ruth in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE).

Happily several cast members are still alive today, including Reynolds, Erdman, Townsend, Patton, and Don Williams. Gillis just passed on earlier this year.

The supporting cast also includes Alan Hale (Sr.), Virginia Sale, Russell Hicks, Ruth Tobey, Sunset Carson, Lane Chandler, Monte Blue, and Jackie Moran, who like Gillis was a star of THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (1938) a few years previously.

JANIE was energetically directed by Michael Curtiz. It was filmed in black and white by Carl E. Guthrie. The running time is 102
minutes.

Most of the cast reunited for JANIE GETS MARRIED, released two years later, with the exception of Reynolds; she was replaced by Joan Leslie.

For more on JANIE, please enjoy posts at Greenbriar Picture Shows and Cin-Eater.

JANIE and JANIE GETS MARRIED are paired on a single disc. The JANIE print was fine; I felt that some of the dialogue was uncharacteristically muffled, prompting me to rewind in a couple of spots and turn it up to catch everything that was said. There are no extras in the set.

Look for a review of JANIE GETS MARRIED here at a future date! (Update: Here is my review of JANIE GETS MARRIED.)

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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