If you’ve ever had the opportunity to catch Outcast with Warren William, Karen Morley and Lewis Stone and have either watched or remember my having written about the wild and crazy Bedside (1934) then I think you’ll catch the drift of my title. If you haven’t seen Outcast, and it’s pretty likely that you haven’t–I noticed I was only the 7th person to cast my vote for it on the IMDb–the I’m going to have to recommend it to you almost as enthusiastically as I had Bedside.
While I’ve yet to see the Warren William title which beats Bedside for over the top zaniness, and personally I love that, I do once again, for the second time on this blog get to invoke Frankenstein (1931) when talking about a Warren William film! In Bedside Donald Meek was bringing guinea pigs back from the dead, well in Outcast Warren William is chased by villagers with torches! Okay, no pitchforks, but the scene was quite similar.
In Paramount’s Outcast Warren William is also cast as a doctor. This time he’s fully licensed, totally on the up and up, but the movie opens with his being on trial for murder. After his acquittal he becomes the outcast of the title, no one will have anything to do with him professionally. He hocks his surgical instruments and escapes Baltimore taking a train as far as the pawn shop funds take him, which turns out to be Orchard Fork, Wisconsin, a small town, basically filled with, pardon, hicks, and one really wise old-timer, Anthony Abbott, a retired lawyer played with a nice combination of savvy and folksiness by Lewis Stone.
In Orchard Fork Jones tells Abbott who is he is, and the old man knows all about him but still takes him on as his personal physician and helps him get started all over again as a country doctor. Soon Doc Jones becomes a popular and necessary part of the town. Trouble looms when Karen Morley, as Margaret, sister-in-law of the woman WW’s Jones was cleared of killing, comes to town planning to out him to the kind, but dimwitted, citizens of Orchard Fork.
In Bedside Jean Muir’s Caroline continually tells Warren William’s Bob Brown that he’s marvelous when he’s about as far from that as you can get. In Outcast Warren William plays a man who has some degree martyred himself and is in fact a pretty marvelous human being. Not only is he a doctor in both films, but he performs an operation on a patient’s throat in each–in Bedside his actions nearly lead to the death of his patient with her bleeding out and needing rescue from the aforementioned Donald Meek. In Outcast Dr. Jones is totally legit, does everything right, but the end result is far more damaging. In fact, on their way to carrying those torches one towns person comments about Jones “He’s too smooth and too oily.” No, he’s not, but that does describe Bob Brown of Bedside!
Lewis Stone is wonderful in Outcast as the elderly lawyer Abbott, a role which certainly looks forward to the recurring role of Judge Hardy he’d soon be playing. Abbott’s content to a life of reading, smoking and drinking, but a bit of a busy-body at the same time willing to interject his own sound belief system on those around him.
I like Karen Morley and she does a pretty good job here as well, though at the same time she’d probably be easiest to replace in this cast with similar results. You really feel for this prim and proper city girl when she’s evicted for keeping late hours and being up to who knows what. From that moment on Morley is biting her lip waiting to break into tears with no one better to comfort her than Stone’s Abbott once she does.
Esther Dale is over-the-top mean and old-fashioned, and I mean that in a good way. For the story to take the turns it does, her Hattie Simmerson needs to be the way she is. John Wray, on the other hand, is somewhat invisible as her husband. This is partly by design, any man would have to take a back seat to Dale here, but at the same time Wray was obviously there to inject a little comedy earlier in the picture and he kind of flopped in this regard. Jackie Moran plays their son, Freddie.
There is one hilarious scene around the Simmerson dinner table where Hattie talks about the electric bloodstream reverser, basically a souped-up vibrator that she tells Karen Morley will “give you a brand new set of vibrations.” Huh? Oh, well Wray’s Mr. Simmerson explains that the reverser is “a rubber covered windingus that works with a battery. You sit on it an hour a day and it makes your clockwork run backwards.” It’s actually a very funny scene on a couple of levels, one of which obviously has me wondering how it slipped past the censors.
Christian Rub, as Abbott’s valet Olaf, is there to steal scenes but falls a little flat. Though I have to admit I smiled along with him as he chomped down on one of Abbott’s cigars and walked off at the very end of the picture.
Warren William is excellent as Dr. Phil Jones, a little stiff in some spots, but very strong overall. I was interested in this movie largely because it’s a post-Warner Brothers, pre-Columbia (ie: Lone Wolf) lead for William with Paramount and I was wondering how he’d do with it. I’m left wondering why better leads didn’t come. He’s more than capable in this drama whose escalating action does eventually recall the lynch mob of Fury (1936) starring Spencer Tracy, even if it’s not as good a film overall.
Regarding Robert Florey’s direction, the lone comment over on the IMDb from briantaves puts it beautifully:
…Florey reveals an increasing stylistic sophistication, blending the German Expressionist visuals which had marked his earlier work with an increased naturalist influence, that would eventually coalesce in the 1940s when Florey became one of the leaders in Hollywood’s shift to a realistic style. The result in Outcast is a naturalism that serves to emphasize an artistic rendering of the subject matter…
My own thoughts on picturesque Orchard Fork is that it’s a pretty little town, the kind people talk about retiring too, that Florey takes and paints with enough shadows at the appropriate times to anticipate the onslaught of American noir films coming soonafter.
That IMDb rating? I gave it an 8. Admittedly, I’m surely partial to a strong Warren William movie, but that’s exactly what Outcast is. Unlike several of his more dramatic roles Warren William is the unquestionable lead of Outcast and it makes me wish that there were more like this.
I found my copy on iOffer. Titles seem to come and go over there, so I’d say act quick if you want it. I purchased it with another title from seller lightscameraaction for $15 plus shipping–don’t bother negotiating, he doesn’t take offers.
By the way, I’ve been on a Warren William buying frenzy recently and have now got my checklist down to just 7 titles. If you have any leads about where to find these feel free to let me know in the comments section below. I’m pretty sure the first two titles are lost, but also just as convinced that the other 5 can be had:
The Town That Forgot God (1922)
Honor of the Family (1931)
Expensive Women (1931)
The Woman from Monte Carlo (1932)
The Widow from Monte Carlo (1935)
Midnight Madonna (1937)
The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947)
Thanks for any help on those. The reverse side of the press photo found at the top of this page follows:
AN OLD FASHIONED COUNTRY PARTY – one of the highlight scenes from “Outcast,” which features Warren William, Karen Morley, Lewis Stone and Jackie Moran. Miss Morley’s chic costume is due to the fact that she’s a big city girl visiting a small town in the dramatic picture. That’s a fork Warren is fondling–not a lethal weapon.