Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Warner Archive Grab Bag -UPPERWORLD and LUCKY DEVILS ""

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Warner Archive Grab Bag -UPPERWORLD and LUCKY DEVILS

UPPERWORLD (1934; Roy Del Ruth)
Warren William is well suited to playing rich dudes. Often they are pretty evil rich dudes, but occasionally he can be rather generous. The particular wealthy man he plays here, Mr. Alexander Stream, is the latter. He's a railroad baron type and can be rather serious about his business and home life (for instance, he strictly forbids mowing, vacuuming and juicing in his home prior to his waking up in the afternoon). That said, he clearly has some underlying sense of jovial fun that is not entertained by his party-throwing wife (Mary Astor). When he and his yacht crew rescue a drowning free-spirited dance-hall girl (Ginger Rogers), he finds himself smitten with her. It's very much a movie that calls to mind the old lyrics from Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime".  Alexander Stream is a man who has grown restless with his lifestyle and fortune. He's not a philanderer, but he finds himself lonesome and wanting to spend some time with Ginger Rogers. Who can blame him really. I mean, wouldn't we all like to have spent more time with Ginger? The only downside to this scenario is Ginger's lowlife boyfriend. Of course he does everything to encourage Ginger to ride this railroad gravy train as far as she can. And as lowlife chiseler boyfriends are known to do, he proposes blackmail. And as is almost always the case with blackmail, things tend to go south and there's a bit of a mess to be cleaned up. This is a pretty simple, straightforward story, but pleasant enough. I'd have liked to have seen more Warren William/Ginger Rogers collaborations. P.S. - watch for a very non-Asian looking Sidney Toller in a small but significant role.

LUCKY DEVILS (1933; Ralph Ince)
"Well, it's a great life Hap. A bandit one day and a cop the next."
"Well fifty bucks is fifty bucks."

Long before Hal Needham's HOOPER or Brian Trenchard-Smith's DEATHCHEATERS came this other tale of daredevil stuntmen. One of the things that stood out when I was looking at the credits for this movie was that Merian C. Cooper is listed as an associate producer and the films executive producer was David O. Selznick. 1933 was quite the banner year for this duo as they brought KING KONG into the world as well as working on this little flick with O. Selznick's RKO production unit. LUCKY DEVILS also shares a prime cast member with KING KONG in Bruce Cabot.
This pacey little flick has something of a Howard Hawks-y kinda feel to it. The stuntmen are a riotous bunch, but very proud and somewhat professional about their work. There is definitely a sense of being "good enough" (in that RIO BRAVO kind of way) to do what they do. They are a very superstitious lot as well. When one man breaks a bottle, they take it as a sign that one them will die soon (apparently this has happened before). William Boyd (most famous for his role as Hopalong Cassidy) is a great patriarchal leader to the group. His line,
"...a good stuntman makes a bad husband and a good husband makes a bad stuntman" pretty well sums up a Hawksian attitude about professionalism and keeping one's mind focused on the dangerous job they have to do day in and day out.

Watch this exciting opening sequence (and keep your eye peeled for a young Lon Chaney Jr. who has a small but featured role in the movie):

1 comment:

Cliff Aliperti said...

I do love Warren in UPPERWORLD, but it really deflates for me once we lose Ginger--you could really see the magnetism of a star at work there!