Monday, January 24, 2011

Paid (1930)

Paid is a solid entry in Joan Crawford's early talkie dramas. In fact, it was her first major dramatic role - it gives her a wide range of emotions to display in a role originally meant for Norma Shearer (who, instead, was on maternity leave).

Based on the play, "Within the Law", Paid has Crawford portraying a destitute worker sent to prison for a crime she didn't commit. After studying law during imprisonment, she's released ready for revenge on the boss who charged her in court, the legal system and just about the entire world!

Paid starts stong, then becomes vaguely unconvincing (Joan's Mary Turner becomes the virtual head of a criminal gang in just a few short scenes) and finally culminates in an odd, stage-bound act taking place in a police department. It has some very dated acting and those charmingly bizarre editing choices found in the earliest MGM talkies.
Even so, Crawford is worth watching throughout the entire film and, despite the film's faults - bottom line - you want to know what happens next.

Paid also stars Marie Prevost as Crawford's floozy partner in crime, Robert Armstrong as the gang boss Crawford tries to protect, Douglas Montgomery as the boss' son and a coterie of MGM character actors playing criminals, victims and policemen.

A five minute prison shower fight scene was shot but deleted before the film was released. Some stills from the scene exist.

The film was originally made in 1923 as Within the Law, starring Norma Talmadge and Lew Cody and was made again with the same name in 1939, starring Ruth Hussey and Tom Neal.

Paid has been released on Time Warner Archives DVD-R and has also been broadcast on Turner Classic Movies.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Rag Man (1924)

The Rag Man's an agreeable Jackie Cooper and Max Davidson comedy/drama, unseen for many decades, but shown on television for the first time on Turner Classic Movies in 2004.

Max Davidson plays a junkman who takes orphan Cooper in as a companion and business partner. Though the movie could have went down the path of pathos (as Chaplin's The Kid did, also starring Cooper as an orphan), it doesn't go there.

It does entertain for its duration, with lots of scenes tailored for Cooper's charming facial expressions and body language. (Davidson's character, ill for much of the film, spends most of his time in a chair or bed - I can barely remember him walking across the room in this movie!). It's a pity Davidson's career took a nose dive after the arrival of sound (to the point that his last roles were uncredited); anyone who's seen his '20s comedy shorts can attest to this German actor's talents.

The Rag Man also has some nicely historic location footage shot in New York and a new score for small orchestra by Linda Martinez - a score that borders on being too dissonant but, again, doesn't go that route.

MGM made a sequel to The Rag Man, Old Clothes, the same year with the same cast and director, excepting the sequel also starred a young Joan Crawford. A print of the film reportedly still exists.