Feb 28, 2018

Pre-code on DVD: Goodbye Again (1933), I Like Your Nerve (1931), and The Finger Points (1931)

One of my favorite things about Warner Archive is the label’s commitment to releasing a steady stream of pre-code titles on DVD. As physical media appears to be firmly on the decline, I am increasingly glad to see rare films like these made available for purchase. The latest batch is a solidly entertaining trio: two comedy romances and a drama, starring some of the most appealing stars of the era.

Goodbye Again (1933)

Joan Blondell and Warren William shared the ability to make any film they appeared in better, just because of their presence. While they’ve made plenty of mediocre films, neither of them ever turned in a bad performance or even worse, were ever boring.

Here they play famous novelist Ken Bixby (William) and his loyal secretary Anne (Joan Blondell), who are on the road to promote his latest novel. On their latest stop, Ken runs into Julie (Genevieve Tobin) a long forgotten lover who is bored with her husband (Hugh Herbert) and all atwitter because she believes that she is the inspiration for the heroine of his new book. Julie gets Bixby into a compromising position, inflaming the town, her family, and in his way, her husband.

Of course you know William will finally see the light and love up Blondell. All the fun here is in watching them tangle with the establishment. I like Ms. Joan any way I can get her, but as far as William is concerned, he’s at his best as he is here, mischievous, quick tongued and goofy. He has such a severe look: tall, thin and with that pointed nose and stick straight mustache; it’s great to see him play off that by resisting convention and seriousness in every other way.

Tobin, Helen Chandler, Ruth Donnelly, Hugh Herbert, and Wallace Ford are lively and quirky support, working up that Warner Bros company momentum that made the studio’s flicks the most satisfying of the era.

I Like Your Nerve (1931)

As a romantic pairing Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Loretta Young don’t quite sizzle, but the are still gorgeous, sexy and vibrantly youthful in this fast-paced romance. Fairbanks is Larry, a playboy in Latin America who seems to adore getting in trouble with the authorities because of the thrill of escape. Young is Diane, stepdaughter of Areal Pacheco (Henry Kolker), a shady embezzler. She is marrying a much older man, Clive Lattimer (Edmund Breon) to keep her stepfather from being killed, but only for the honor of her dead mother.

Larry falls for Diane and quickly cuts through the hypocrisy around her so that he may have her for his own. When it comes to the title, the young, mischievous lover may come first to mind, but Lattimer and Pacheco also have plenty of nerve in the way they treat Diane. At least Larry is an honest troublemaker.

It’s fun to watch Fairbanks and Young flirt and fight their way out of the various messes they’ve gotten themselves into. Boris Karloff also makes a pleasing, if brief appearance as a servant. This is an hour of froth and a delightful one at that.

The Finger Points (1931)

This newspaper drama starring Richard Barthelmess is the darkest of the trio, though there is plenty of light humor to balance the mood. Barthelmess is a country boy just arrived in Chicago with a letter of recommendation from the small town newspaper where he got his start. He finds himself a job at a big city rag and becomes friends with reporters Fay Wray and Regis Toomey. Soon he finds himself falling under the influence of the mob, including Louis Blanco, played by a young, pre-King Clark Gable.

I respect Richard Barthelmess more than I enjoy him. His talent is unmistakable, but that tense hunch of his and the feeling that he hasn’t got any sense of humor always make him difficult for me to stomach. That said, this is the most I’ve seen him tap into human warmth, which I credit mostly to his chemistry with Fay Wray, who doesn’t act so much as bless everyone with her presence.

Seeing Gable in this role, it is clear that he could have easily fallen into a career of playing thugs. He exudes star charisma, just like Cagney did in his early parts, where he similarly didn’t make sense playing support, but the muscular, bold man wasn’t yet in vogue as a desirable romantic lead. Watching him opposite Barthelmess, you can see the shift happening: the more delicate gentlemen of the silent age falling aside for the likes of Gable.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing copies of the films for review. These are Manufacture on Demand (MOD) DVDs. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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