Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flesh (1932)

Wallace Beery plays a German beer garden wrestler and waiter in the oddly-named Flesh. Beery, childlike and naive, falls for a just-out-of-jail and penniless Karen Morley, who's also pregnant, though she keeps that fact to herself. Beery takes pity on her and gives her a place to stay. Flesh then becomes a sort of slow-burn cousin to The Blue Angel, as the smitten and child-like Beery is fooled, manipulated and swindled by both Morley and her lover posing as her brother (played by Ricardo Cortez), a slimy ex-con who doesn't treat Morley with any more respect than Beery.

Though uncredited (no director is listed in the credits), the great John Ford directed Flesh while on loan to MGM. Many Ford fans don't think much of Flesh and it's far from a masterpiece. It does keep the viewer interested in these characters all the way to the tragic end, though. Beery plays the part with such pathos and innocence it's hard to be unmoved by his predicament - his uncompromising stance when he's pressured to "fix' a fight also makes him endearing. (The awkward German accent, though, is a minus.) Morley's world weary criminal is just conflicted enough about her feelings and guilt to make her character stand out from the cinematic cliche. The role could have been one-dimensional.

Flesh also features character actors like Jean Hersholt, Ward Bond, Nat Pendleton and, for better or worse, the ubiquitous John Miljan.

Flesh is available on Warner Brothers DVD-R.

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