Monday, May 26, 2008

West of Broadway (1931)

West of Broadway, 1931, starring John Gilbert, Lois Moran, Ralph Bellamy, and El Brendel. Directed by Harry Beaumont.

Those who believe MGM was deliberately sabatoging John Gilbert's sound-era career won't find much in West of Broadway to dissuade them; the character Gilbert is asked to play here is thoroughly disagreeable. Jilted by his girlfriend after returning from WWI, and on a bender, Gilbert marries sweet but low-class Lois Moran the very night he meets her. Gilbert's character continues drunk and bitter throughout the film, as Moran unrelentingly pursues him, determined to make the quickly-spawned marriage work. She does, of course, in a fast, tacked-on ending.

There's just not a lot believable or likeable here, except for Lois Moran's good-hearted commitment to an ideal. Ralph Bellamy plays to type as the guy who doesn't get the girl; El Brendel may have been funny in some films, but not in this one.

For a much better Gilbert sound film, see The Phantom of Paris, also 1931.

Not available on DVD; it has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

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