Friday, July 9, 2010

Getting warmer

Hot Saturday (1932) holds a place in film history as Cary Grant's first leading role. Interestingly, the former slum rat from London plays--very convincingly--a country club American playboy. How did that dirt-poor Cockney Archie Leach know how to play not only the well-to-do, but the American well-to-do? He never aped the English--in fact, he rarely played an English character despite that strange hodge-podge accent. But we always accepted him, and so do the zesty teens in Hot Saturday, in which he is that rich older guy who invites them up to his place, probably to do vague and unspecified naughty things.

This movie is all about vague and unspecified naughty things, which it is why it is being circulated today as an example of pre-Code entertainment. The most distinguishing feature about all this is that once Nancy Carroll has acquired a bad reputation for possibly staying overnight with Cary Grant, she decides not to fight it, but to embrace it. Evidently, she is willing to take the rap without having enjoyed the fun! Just to show that old tropes never go away, there is some discussion about who removed whose clothes when they were passed out, a trope which reappears in the current release Knight and Day.

Hot Saturday is also interesting for the unusual resume of its director, William A. Seiter, who began in silent films, often with comedian Reginald Denny, and developed a relaxed comedy style allowing actors to control tempo and comic beats. He made one film with Laurel & Hardy (one of their best, The Sons of the Desert), one film with the Marx Brothers (Room Service), one with Abbott & Costello (a strange misfire in which they played separately throughout) two films with Shirley Temple, one with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, one with Fred and Rita Hayworth, several with Wheeler & Wolsey (the most prolific feature comedy team of the early 30's), a Western screwball comedy with John Wayne and Jean Arthur (A Lady Takes A Chance--a fun picture) and soldiered on through television to the beginning of the 60s. Producers and actors must have liked this guy; so why don't the auteurists?

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