Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag: GOING HOLLYWOOD, Hildegarde Withers & THE HUMAN FACTOR ""

Monday, September 16, 2013

Warner Archive Grab Bag: GOING HOLLYWOOD, Hildegarde Withers & THE HUMAN FACTOR

GOING HOLLYWOOD(1933; Raoul Walsh)
My but do I love me some Raoul Walsh. Had always heard about his versatility, but had never explored his amazing comedy oeuvre until a few years ago. What a marvelous journey that has been. Things like SAILOR'S LUCK, ME AND MY GAL and THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE were immediately captivating to me and had me hungry for more. I had never seen a Walsh musical though so GOING HOLLYWOOD was of absolute interest to me. I'd also not really seen much in the way of Marion Davies' work either, in fact this may have been the first movie I'd seen her in. Here, she plays a schoolteacher(a French teacher) with much ennui who becomes obsessed with a crooner played by Bing Crosby. She gets kinda stalk-y about it too. In a pleasant enough way I mean, but stalk-y nonetheless. She hears him singing one night on the radio and then shows up at his apartment the next day. When he ditches her to catch a train to Hollywood, she pops up in his train car. She disguises herself in blackface as a gypsy fortune teller to try to court him. Strange behavior. She even punches his bratty French actress girlfriend in the eye and gets herself cast in the movie he's working on. Lesson: stalkers succeed! Please keep this in mind, but especially if you find yourself in a 1933 musical directed by Raoul Walsh.

The Hildegarde Withers Mystery Collection
If ever a woman was born to play a role, Edna May Oliver was born to play Hildegarde Withers. She reminds me an indignant Carol Burnett on some level. Seeing she and James Gleason Play off each other makes it easy to see why this series of films was so popular(if perhaps too short lived). Oliver as the titular spinster school teacher/detective is a no-nonsense gal with little time or patience to suffer fools. Gleason's Inspector Piper is equally ill-equipped to deal with idiots so they shuffle them aside as they take in clues and motives to analyze on their way to crime solving. Edna May Oliver played Withers in 1st 3 of the 6 films in this set(PENGUIN POOL MURDER, MURDER ON THE BLACKBOARD & MURDER ON A HONEYMOON) and she was succeeded by Helen Broderick(MURDER ON THE BRIDLE PATH) and Zasu Pitts(THE PLOT THICKENS and FORTY NAUGHTY GIRLS). For my money, the films decline a bit when Oliver is replaced, but they all have their charms. PENGUIN POOL MURDER is probably the best of the bunch as it is a tight, clever whodunnit with some interesting suspects and an intriguing locale(a local aquarium).

THE HUMAN FACTOR(1979; Otto Preminger)
Two British secret service men find themselves being subtly investigated by their higher ups as possible "leaks" and must decide what to do about it. 
This is an unusual entry from director Otto Preminger in some regards. First and foremost, it is noticeable more low budget than most of the typical productions one is used to seeing from him. Lots of characters talking in rooms. He's got some seasoned British actors here in Richard Attenborough, Robert Morley, John Gielgud and Derek Jacobi as well as some lesser known folks(some of whom seem to be almost non-actors or at least less-experienced actors).
The film is based on a novel by Grahame Green and adapted by Tom Stoppard. 

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