Sunday, April 20, 2014

1934 - Flirtation Walk

Last year, I was approached by Take2 Publishing for permission to use several of my blog posts in their Guide to Steven Spielberg. The e-book is now on the e-shelves and four of my Spielberg reviews made their way into the guide. If I'm calculating my royalty percentage correctly, I believe I will receive the enormous sum of 1.4 cents for every copy sold. Who said blogging doesn't pay? They also made a fun video with some of the contributors wearing iconic hats of Spielberg characters. I think I'm Indiana Jones?

We now continue reviewing the behemoth that is the 1934 Best Picture competition with...


Flirtation Walk
Director:
Frank Borzage
Screenplay:
Delmer Daves & Lou Edelman
Starring:
Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Pat O'Brien, Ross Alexander, John Arledge, John Eldredge, Henry O'Neill, Guinn Williams
Academy Awards:
2 nominations
0 wins

Stationed in Hawaii, enlisted army man Dick Dorcy (Powell) is assigned to chauffeur the general's daughter, Kit (Keeler), to a reception. They never make it, though, and are found later that evening in a romantic embrace, having presumably fallen in love at first sight. Dick plans on quitting the army for Kit, but she prevents him from doing so by falsely denying that she loves him. In what can only be described as an act of impulsive arrogance, Dick decides to apply to West Point in order to become an officer. But when Kit arrives in Dick's final year at the Academy, their feelings are put to the test.

If nothing else, this project has taught me that audiences of the 1930s must have loved to see songs in movies. It doesn't seem to have mattered to which genre the film belonged. As long as there was at least one musical number in there - whether it broke the story's reality or not - then that's entertainment. Flirtation Walk is no exception. It's even billed as a musical, despite the fact that the majority of the film is without music. There's one gratuitous song at a luau early on, then towards the end of the picture, several songs are performed as part of a stage musical revue. Granted, the comedy/romance style of the non-musical scenes is not incongruous to the musical genre, but with such large chunks of the movie passing without a song, it takes some getting used to when all of a sudden you realise it's actually a musical you're watching.

Nonetheless, the story held my attention throughout, which I suppose indicates that it wasn't boring. Certainly not a brilliant tale, but nothing to complain about either. Well, almost nothing. Similar to the previously reviewed It Happened One Night, the conclusion of Flirtation Walk deprives us of the one thing romantic comedy audiences want to see: the two lovers falling into each other's arms. Sure, they end up together, but we never actually see it. In fact, that's not the only reason that the ending is less than satisfactory. Along with almost losing the girl, our protagonist almost misses out on graduating from West Point. Rather than affecting any change himself, his nemesis simply shows up to tell him that everything has turned in his favour. The girl is his and he can graduate, after all, and he didn't have to lift a finger. Now, that's a deus ex machina if ever there was one.

Dick Powell (pictured, with Ruby Keeler) creates one of those charming, authority-disrespecting characters who later shows he has depth and maturity - a very watchable portrayal. But I was most drawn to the performance of Ross Alexander. His engaging charisma and natural comic delivery seem ahead of his time. Sadly, upon researching more about him in order to discover what other films I could watch him in, I was dismayed to learn he committed suicide before he was 30. I will, however, see him again when this project covers the 1935 Best Picture nominees - he appears in both A Midsummer Night's Dream and Captain Blood.

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