Monday, July 1, 2013

Are You Listening? (1932)

William Haines is a murderer on the run from a nationwide, radio-reported police manhunt!

This isn't your typical William Haines flick. In fact, it's the last film he made for MGM and the last feature film he made for a major studio. When he's carried away on a train at the end of the film, he's also, in effect, leaving Hollywood.

Are You Listening? plays like a mashup of MGM's first musical, The Broadway Melody (1929) and Haines' previous radio-centric film, Remote Control (1930). As in The Broadway Melody, half of the film tells the story of how young girls who come to New York
to make a living are used and abused. In the no-less-depressing other half of the film, Haines plays a radio writer married to horrendous shrew Karen Morley who plays evil like you've never seen her play it before. Meanwhile, Haines has fallen in love with one of the aforementioned women, the appealing Madge Evans (also Haines' love interest in Fast Life).

The first half of the movie is an uneasy mixture of light comedy (primarily poking fun at radio's primitive production methods) and drama. Are You Listening? gradually sheds all humor and becomes an outright melodrama, with an almost noir atmosphere unlike any other Haines movie. The technology with which Haines made his living becomes the technology that hunts him down and entraps him.

Those who love character actors will have a field day with Are You Listening?. Neil Hamilton, Wallace Ford, Hattie McDaniel,Jean Hersholt, John Miljan, Joan Marsh, Charley Grapewin and more appear.

Old Time Radio fans will be especially interested in Are You Listening?. I'd direct those just discovering Willam Haines to The Girl Said No, The Smart Set or Navy Blues.

Are You Listening? has been released on Warner Archives DVD-R.

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