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Oh, it doesn’t do me much good all the way over here on the other side of the country, but if Long Beach, CA is local to you then this will be of major interest.
Randy Skretvedt, Resource Specialist at Long Beach School for Adults Film Forum, contacted me with the following release about their third annual Pre-Code Festival, which closes this Friday evening, August 20, with a Warren William Double Feature!
It starts at 7 pm their time and the features will be Upperworld (1934) and the rarely seen Bedside (1934), a personal favorite! Free Admission at the Long Beach School for Adults Auditorium, 3701 E. Willow Street, just east of Redondo.
Following the recently acquired Bedside still is the Film Forum’s release with a sign-off from me below that:
August 20, 2010
Friday Night Film Forum
UPPERWORLD / BEDSIDE
Cartoon: THE BOOZE HANGS HIGH (12/1930) – Prohibition, schmohibition! It’s 1930, bootleggers and speakeasies still abound, and Leon Schlesinger’s cartoon studio issues a short with drunken pigs. (This seems to be a recurring theme in early ‘30s Looney Tunes, as you’ll recall from You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’ a couple of weeks ago.) Even our hero, Bosko, gets tipsy and warbles a wobbly rendition of “Sweet Adeline.” A feeble attempt at “redeeming social value” would be the score, all of it taken from Song of the Flame, with songs written by George Gershwin, Herbert Stothart, Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach. Somehow, the rather crude barnyard humor stays in the memory longer. Six minutes.
Feature: UPPERWORLD (4/28/1934) – A Warner Bros. Picture. Executive Producer, Jack L. Warner. Produced by Hal B. Wallis. Directed by Roy Del Ruth. Story by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, with Uncredited Assistance by Eugene Walter. Screenplay by Ben Markson. Cinematography by Tony Gaudio. Film Editing by Owen Marks. Art Direction by Anton Grot. Gowns by Orry-Kelly. Makeup by Perc Westmore. Production Supervised by Robert Lord. Assistant Director, Lee Katz. Sound Recording by Gordon M. Davis. Music Cues Composed by Bernhard Kaun. Music Conducted by Leo F. Forbstein. 73 minutes.
Starring Warren William (Alexander Stream), Mary Astor (Mrs. Hettie Stream), Ginger Rogers (Lilly Linda), Andy Devine (Oscar, the Chauffeur), Dickie Moore (Tommy Stream), Ferdinand Gottschalk (Marcus), J. Carrol Naish (Lou Colima), Sidney Toler (Officer Moran), Henry O’Neill (Banker Making Toast at Banquet), Theodore Newton (Reporter Rocklen), Robert Barrat (Police Commissioner Clark), Robert Grieg (Marc Caldwell, the Butler), Frank Sheridan (Police Inspector Kellogg), John Qualen (Chris, the Janitor), Willard Robertson (Police Captain Reynolds), Nora Cecil (Stream’s Housekeeper), Clay Clement (Medical Examiner), Frank Conroy (Paul, Alexander’s Attorney), William B. Davidson (City Editor), Sidney De Gray (Jury Foreman), Jay Eaton (Jewelry Salesman), Howard C. Hickman (Judge), Wilfred Lucas (Boat Captain), Dennis O’Keefe (Photographer), Edwin Stanley (Joe, the Fingerprint Expert), Guy Usher (Police Captain Carter), Duke York (Marine in Burlesque Theater).
Tonight, we salute one of our favorite actors of the Pre-Code era, Warren William, who beneath that suave exterior concealed a personality that was one part cad, two parts rogue, and seventeen parts weasel. However, just to demonstrate his versatility, in our first picture he plays a guy who’s almost ethical.
In Upperworld, he plays a titan of business, but one not nearly as ruthless as his character in Employees’ Entrance (nor in another pre-Code Warners epic, The Match King). He’s actually a sympathetic character, a man who would love to have closer ties to his wife (Mary Astor). Unfortunately, she’s too busy climbing the social ladder to pay much attention to him, or to their adorable little boy (Dickie Moore), who plays with toy trains while Daddy runs a railroad empire.
Warren/ “Stream” turns to his yacht for amusement, and happens to rescue burlesque showgirl Lilly Linda from a watery mishap. She’s played by Ginger Rogers, in the second of four movies she made between her first with Fred Astaire (Flying Down to Rio) and the second, which confirmed her star status (The Gay Divorcee). It’s not surprising that Warren begins to spend more time with Ginger than with his wife; it is surprising that the relationship is genuinely affectionate and platonic. This matters little to Lilly’s shady boyfriend, a thug played by J. Carrol Naish (who was of Irish heritage, and portrayed in movies every ethnic group except the Irish). Add to this a contentious relationship between Warren and doughy-faced, beady-eyed cop Sidney Toler, and we can see that things will soon not be going well for Warren.
In addition to Naish and Toler, the cast includes Andy Devine as a good-natured chauffeur, Robert Barrat as a determined police commissioner, Robert Grieg as the butler (what else?) who knows all but plays it close to the vest, William B. Davidson as a ruthless newspaper editor, and John Qualen in one of his “nervous little man” roles as the janitor who sees too much. Among the movie’s many delights is a scene where Warren dons a fake nose and accompanies himself at the piano, singing “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” He seems like a truly nice guy here, an opinion you probably won’t hold of his character in the next picture.
Feature: BEDSIDE (1932) – A First National Picture. Produced by Samuel Bischoff. Directed by Robert Florey. Story by Manuel Seff and Harvey F. Thew. Screenplay by Lillie Hayward and James Wharton. Additional Dialogue by Rian James. Original Music by Bernhard Kaun. Vitaphone Orchestra Conducted by Leo F. Forbstein. Cinematography by Sid Hickox. Film Editing by Harold McLernon. Art Direction by Esdras Hartley. Costumes by Orry-Kelly. 66 minutes.
Starring Warren William (Bob Brown), Jean Muir (Caroline Grant), Allen Jenkins (Sam Sparks), David Landau (Dr. J. Herbert Martel), Kathryn Sergava (Mme. Mimi Maritza), Henry O’Neill (Dr. William Chester), Donald Meek (Dr. George Wiley), Renee Whitney (Mme. Varsova), Walter Walker (Dr. Michael), Marjorie Lytell (Patient with Sprained Ankle), Frederick Burton (Hospital Superintendent), Philip Faversham (Intern Attending Caroline), Louise Beavers (Pansy), Earle Foxe (Joe), William Burres (Oscar Bernstein, Music Critic), Mary Carr (Heart Patient), Gino Corrado (Party Guest), Bess Flowers (Hospital Reception Desk Nurse), Grace Hayle (Mrs. Mason), Henry Kolker (Maritza’s Manager), John Larkin (Train Porter), Claire McDowell (Nurse), Jack Mower (Intern Discovering Martel), Inez Palange (Italian Mother), C. Montague Shaw (Dr. Moeller, at Opera), Eric Wilton (Waiter).
This is the perfect movie on which to end this summer’s Pre-Code festival. It is preposterous, unbelievable, a jaw-dropper, a mind-boggler, ludicrous in every regard, and fun as all get-out.
Warren may have his greatest “sympathetic scoundrel” role ever in this film, as a once-promising pre-med student who gambles away the money that was supposed to pay for his education. Variety, in its review of March 1934, thought that Warren was a scoundrel who wasn’t so sympathetic: “After being exploited for a solid hour as a gambler, drunkard, cheat and fraud, Warren William is unable in the last three minutes to rehabilitate himself in the grace of the spectator…the chief emotion aroused is regret that he gets the girl instead of taking the jail sentence he very richly deserves…the story is beyond saving, nor is it worth salvage…no picture is better than its plot, and this scenario is hopeless.”
Well…beyond belief and maybe a bit laughable, yes. Hopeless, no. I like the assessment on The Internet Movie Database from Jack Tillmany of Walnut Creek, California, who writes: “A classic this is not, but therein lies the secret of its charm. Today’s viewers can sit back and watch an abundance of such pre-code plot devices as pre-marital sex and drug addiction, with critical brain operations and bringing the dead back to life merely thrown in as side issues, set against a background of slick 1930s sets, one mind-boggling situation following another, the sum total of which would keep one of today’s soaps going for at least six months if not a year. You won’t believe a word of it, your jaw will frequently drop at the sheer, shocking absurdity of it all, to say nothing of the fact that the players manage to say their lines with total sincerity, without ever once cracking up. So relax and enjoy it. That’s what movies like this are for.”
Yup. This is sheer pre-Code fun, with melodramatic plot devices, florid characters, colorful supporting players, a laissez-faire attitude toward gambling, drinking and other vices, and the richly entertaining performance of Warren William, the movies’ wondrous weasel.
We know that tonight’s double feature will whet your appetite for all things Warren William, so we direct you to The Warren William Website (https://warrenwilliam.com/home/), filled with wonderful pictures and informative articles, most of them written by the site’s “mouthpiece” (also the title of a great WW film), Cliff Aliperti. You’ll find that the real WW was easygoing, contented, faithful in a long and happy marriage, and described by his co-workers as friendly and cordial—so, when playing the sleazy, driven characters of his Pre-Code films, Warren William was truly a convincing actor. –Randy Skretvedt
Total program running time: 145 minutes
I love it: “..preposterous, unbelievable, a jaw-dropper, a mind-boggler, ludicrous in every regard, and fun as all get-out.” Yes, that’s Bedside!
Thanks very much for mention of us, Randy, I hope you all have a blast out there Friday night! Crossing my fingers the audience can handle the switch from Upperworld to Bedside, I hope you warn them! Hopefully some new Warren William fans are born.
By the way, if anybody is involved with a theater showing any Warren William films locally please do feel free to contact me with the subject line “Warren William on the Big Screen.” I’ll be happy to post an announcement here just as I did for Randy and the Long Beach Film Forum.