Friday, September 18, 2009

Not So Dumb (King Vidor) **1/2

Director: King Vidor

Cast: Marion Davies, Elliott Nugent, Raymond Hackett, Franklin Pangborn, Julia Faye, William Holden

Background: After experimenting in his first talkie, Vidor returns to more familiar territory, teaming up with Marion Davies. The two had successfully collaborated on the silent films Show People and The Patsy. The story was adapted from a stage play written by Marc Connelly and George Kaufman.

Story: Dulcy Parker (Davies) wants to help out her fiance's business career, but all of her attempts backfire and threaten a very important business relationship.

Thoughts: After being forced to use a (very bad) French accent in her first talkie, Davies is allowed to let her spirited charm loose here, and she is an absolute delight throughout this film. She has an endless enthusiasm in every single scene that really lifts an otherwise stagey and dull affair. The rest of the cast just doesn't seem to be up to her level. But the real surprise is the clunky direction from King Vidor. This is the same man who made The Crowd, and even his misfire Hallelujah! showcased very advanced technique. Unfortunately, it seems like he chose to phone in this one. The camera barely moves at all and he does absolutely nothing visually. The dialogue itself isn't as clever or funny as the writers appear to believe. Without any support, Davies is left to carry the whole thing by herself, and to her credit she almost makes it work.

Postscript: The next year, Vidor would make The Champ with Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper, but it would be another 16 years before he made his most highly regarded classic, 1946's Duel in the Sun. Davies would continue making comedies, eventually breaking into musicals such as 1933's Going Hollywood with Bing Crosby.

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