Friday, August 20, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Goin' To Town (1935) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Mae West stars as a dance hall queen who falls in love with a British nobleman in GOIN' TO TOWN (1935), now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

GOIN' TO TOWN was West's fifth film, and it's also my fifth review as I chronologically watch my way through her films.

Western entertainer Cleo Borden (West) agrees to marry Buck Gonzales (Fred Kohler), but Buck's a no-good fellow who promptly dies in a shootout with the law.

Thanks to a premarital agreement, Cleo inherits a ranch from Buck with oil wells, making her a wealthy woman. She falls for Carrington (Paul Cavanagh), the British engineer managing the wells, but although he's attracted to her, she's not in his league socially.

Cleo's loyal butler Winslow (Gilbert Emery) coaches her as she works her way into the upper crust of society. This includes a trip to Buenos Aires, where Winslow arranges an "in name only" marriage for Cleo and socially prominent but broke Fletcher Colton (Monroe Owsley). Cleo hopes that her new name will make her more socially acceptable to Carrington, although it does come with the little problem of her being married!

When they meet again, Carrington has a new name as well: He's inherited a title and is now an earl. The couple realize they're in love for keeps, but first they have to solve the problem of her current husband, whose gambling debts have landed him in hot water.

While lacking the style and pre-Code surprises of SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933), I found GOIN' TO TOWN very enjoyable. It's an entertaining story, with West on screen for the vast majority of the film's 74 minutes. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I'm enjoying West's films, including this one.

The screenplay, penned by West (based on a story by Marion Morgan and George B. Dowell), gives her plenty of fun zingers; they may be a little more tame than in her pre-Code films but there are still a few eyebrow-raising lines, and all in all it's a well-written script.

There aren't any big names among the men in the cast; they're on the bland side but acquit themselves competently. I wondered a bit if better-known, more charismatic actors weren't chosen in order for West to stand out more in contrast. (Of course, Cary Grant wasn't a star either when he was cast in West's earlier films.) Among the male actors, I found Emery as the butler the most entertaining, to the point I briefly wondered if he might end up with Cleo instead of Carrington.

Marjorie Gateson is appropriately nasty as Colton's aunt, who hates Cleo and is determined to cause her downfall.

An added plus is West performing some catchy numbers by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal, including "He's a Bad Man" and "Now I'm a Lady"; the latter was cowritten by Sam Coslow.

Cleo also stages the Saint-Saens opera SAMSON AND DELILAH. Although IMDb lists West as singing the number, I assume the soprano voice was dubbed. I haven't been able to find out more information at this point, but perhaps the commentary track with Kat Ellinger will shed light on that.

The film was directed by Alexander Hall (HERE COMES MR. JORDAN) and filmed by Karl Struss.

The Blu-ray print isn't perfect, a little soft in spots and a line here and there, including during the opening credits; the soundtrack also isn't quite as strong as other West films. That said, it's perfectly watchable and brought me considerable viewing pleasure.  I definitely recommend it for Mae West fans, as well as for those who want to make her acquaintance, as I've been doing this summer.

In addition to the previously mentioned commentary, the disc includes the trailer and five additional trailers for West films available from Kino Lorber.

Previous reviews of Mae West films released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber: NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932), SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933), I'M NO ANGEL (1933), and BELLE OF THE NINETIES (1934).

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger barrylane said...

From time to time we have all wondered about the male casting, but these were all working actors, especially Paul Cavanaugh. As for Cary Grant, he was not yet the 'Cary Grant' of immortality, but still fine tuning.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yep, they were all "good enough," just kinda bland.

Glad to see that a couple of the upcoming West films I'll be watching have more colorful actors such as Warren William, Edmund Lowe, Randolph Scott, and Charles Butterworth.

Best wishes,

10:58 AM  

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