Rupert Pupkin Speaks: WAC'd Out Sets: Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 7 ""

Monday, May 20, 2013

WAC'd Out Sets: Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 7

I really can't get enough of this series and I'm glad to hear there more in the works. Each of the now seven volumes are packed with goodness and have really inspired me to become a pretty big pre-code film fan. This set is not exception to the quality of the previous installments in that it includes two long awaited Warren William dvd debuts and a couple others I was unaware of.

THE HATCHET MAN(1932; William A. Wellman)
This is one of those films that was not on my radar until its inclusion in this set. It has at least two things going for it. First, director Willam A. Wellman at the helm. Wellman is a regular part of these Forbidden Hollywood sets and a very welcome one at that. I like his films quite a bit. It's weird, I've been aware of him for a really long time, but only in the past few years become a stalwart supporter. I think I first heard his name mentioned years ago in the John Sayles film LIANNA. If I recall, Sayles himself plays a film professor in the film and at one point he get's very excited about a TV airing of Wellman's BATTLEGROUND(which I still need to see). Sayle's character specifically says, "That's a William Wellman we're doing next week. I better give it a look." So John Sayles was certainly aware of Wellman back in the 80s and I wish I had been too. Anyway, on to the second thing this film has going for it: Edward G. Robinson. Edward G. is among my favorite actors of all-time and is someone with whom I've rarely been disappointed. He's plays the titular character here.
As with nearly any film of this period, one encounters the issue of white actors playing Asians. I always find this  bit tricky, but with Edward G. on board and bearing in mind that this is just what was commonly done at the time, I'll give it a pass I suppose. Seeing Loretta Young made up this way is a touch off-putting though.

This film gave me some historical context for John Carpenter's BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA(a personal favorite of mine). The opening crawl sets a definition for the political factions in San Francisco's Chinatown known as "tongs", which were apparently almost constantly at war(which we later see exemplified in BTiLC). The Hatchet Man's role in all this is to carry out the will of his particular tong. This often means taking out those that have wronged other members of one's tong. Beware the tong war flag!

SKYSCRAPER SOULS(1932; Edgar Selwyn)
I was first turned onto this film by Cliff Aliperti, who runs He mentioned both this film and EMPLOYEES ENTRANCE in his "VHS Gems" guest post for me last year.
I had seen and liked EMPLOYEES, but this one was new to me. It's a great showcase for Warren William for sure. Here he plays David Dwight, the bank owner and primary investor in the Seacoast National Bank Building. He's taken out a loan of 30 million dollars of the bank's money to help finish the building and finds himself in the rather precarious position of needing further financial support to keep it going. He's a bit of a womanizing cad, but a charismatic one. The film itself follows Dwight's exploits as well as those of some of the other men and women who work in the building.  It's like GRAND HOTEL, but a bit more ruthless and office-y. One of the film's other 'souls' is Lynn Harding, played by the dazzling Ms. Maureen O'Sullivan. As sexy as O'Sullivan is in the TARZAN films, she's just as alluring here. Warren William thinks so too. And he does his best to woo her whilst juggling a mistress, a wife and trying to avoid having his finances crash down around his ears.

This was the first Warren William film I ever saw and it's a powerhouse. This is where I realized just how dynamic a screen presence he had. Very reminiscent of a John Barrymore or something. Here, William  is Kurt Anderson, a cutthroat business wunderkind  who works his way up to running Franklin Monroe & Co., a big department store. Anderson is a cold-hearted, unbending watcher of the bottom line who will stop at nothing to keep the store in profits. His cold heart melts ever so slightly when he happens upon Madeline Walters(Loretta Young), upon a routine inspection of the 5th and 6th floors. Madeline is a free-spirited, unemployed gal looking for a job and Anderson sees clear to hiring her on as a model after an evening's "entertainment". Another person Anderson favors is one of his salespeople, Martin West(played by Wallace Ford). West has progressive ideas for making the store more profitable and he gains Anderson's trust. Eventually Anderson makes West his right hand man. Soon, West begins to take a liking to Madeline and things get complicated. he must choose between becoming Kurt Anderson Jr. and the love of his life. I'm not normally a huge fan of Loretta Young, but she is as gorgeous as ever here and pretty charming.  Allen Jenkins has a small role as store detective.

EX-LADY(1933; Robert Florey)
A platinum blonde Bette Davis plays Helen Bauer, an empowered, high-class illustrator and Gene Raymond(who I really came to like a lot via LOVE ON  A BET) is her secret suitor. They don't believe in marriage, but Bauer's folks feel differently about the situation. Gene Raymond wants to make an honest woman of her, but she's not interested. As far as she's concerned, "marriage is dull". But Raymond persists and finally talks her into it. She joins his ad agency as art director, but things don't go as swimmingly as they'd hoped. Things start to go south. Can they get back on track? Also featuring a windy Frank McHugh and the lovely Claire Dodd(raawrr).

Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 7 is available from Warner Archive: Here

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