Friday, September 12, 2008

Five And Ten (1931)

Five and Ten is the story of the daughter (Marion Davies) of a "new money" store chain owner, moving to New York with her family and falling in love with an architect, Leslie Howard, "above her station". We've all seen that basic story, but it's also about a family disintegrating due to the patriarch's relentless pursuit of riches. You've seen that before, too, but have you seen Douglass Montgomery suicidally crashing an airplane?

Five and Ten can be looked at two ways. Taken in the context of 1930s movies, the film is an okay soaper, certainly engaging enough, with strong actors and sets and only the out-of-left-field absurdity of the aforementioned plane wreck keeps the film from approaching first rate melodrama (the character hasn't been established as knowing how to fly a plane, and then miraculously survives the horrendous wreck just long enough for a teary family farewell).

Taken in the context of Marion Davies' films, however, it's a big leap forward in the establishment of her as a varied, well-rounded actress. Davies, who for many decades after her career was underrated as a comedienne (perhaps due to the insinuations of Welles' Citizen Kane), had long wanted to perform drama, and William Randolph Hearst, her "benefactor", long fought against it.
Here she shows herself quite capable, especially amidst talents old and new like Richard Bennett, Irene Rich and Douglass Montgomery, playing Davies' brother, the aviator. It hardly seems Davies is the same person who played in solid but far distant silent films such as Little Old New York. Based on the evidence, she could have had a substantially longer career in sound films.

Five and Ten is not available on VHS or DVD, but has been broadcast on Turner Classic Movies.

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