Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not So Dumb (1930)

Not So Dumb, filmed in 1929 and released in 1930, is a lot of fun. Based on the 1921 play, Dulcy, written by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly, the film lost $39,000 for MGM. That's a shame because Not So Dumb was a perfect vehicle for Marion Davies' comedic talents.

Davies plays the ditzy fiancee of Elliot Nugent, who's trying to strike an important business deal with a big shot staying with them for the weekend. Will Davies inadvertently mess up Nugent's plans, or will everything turn out right in the end? Hmmm....

It's all light as air, flighty, inconsequential and entertaining, with some very witty lines. Davies looks like she was having a lot of fun here. The eccentric characters portrayed by a fine ensemble cast point the way to future plays and films also written or co-written by George S. Kaufman like You Can't Take It With You and The Marx Brothers' The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers. George Davis plays an ex-convict butler. Franklin Pangborn plays a screenwriter named Vincent Leach (great name!), who regales his trapped hosts with a scenario ripped from Cecil B. DeMille's Intolerance. DeMille's often used actress Julia Faye is hilarious as the easily-led-astray big shot's wife. Only Donald Ogden Stewart falls flat as the requisite "crazy" of the bunch, but that's due to the screenplay; crazy doesn't automatically equal funny.

Those unaccustomed to early sound films may be bothered by the bad (sometimes bordering on the bizarre) editing; the sound is also bad in the first scene. Life's short - you can get over it.

Dulcy was filmed earlier in 1923 with Constance Talmadge (it's easy to picture her playing the part; is there a print of this film still in existence?), and in 1940 with Ann Southern. Zazu Pitts and Gracie Allen also played the role in radio versions.

Not So Dumb is not available on VHS or DVD, but has been broadcast on Turner Classic Movies.

1 comment:

VP81955 said...

One of the radio versions of "Dulcy," from 1935, is the only surviving broadcast of "Lux Radio Theater" before it was moved from New York to Hollywood in 1936, adding the likes of Cecil B. DeMille as "producer" (he actually was merely the host, as he had no background in radio drama)..