Monday, July 19, 2010
Merrily We Go To Hell (1931) is resurfacing as an example of wicked pre-Code Hollywood entertainment, but it is in fact a very proper and upright message picture which conveys the following information:
(a) Being an alcoholic is bad for your career and your marriage and you can't recover with just willpower;
(b) Sometimes your crabby old father-in-law is right;
(c) If you're going to have an open marriage, you might as well mess around with Cary Grant (this applies mostly to women);
(d) Just because a woman (Dorothy Arzner) is directing, it doesn't mean the female protagonist is going to be any stronger or smarter than if a man directed, nor does it make it any more interesting;
(e) Frederic March is only interesting as an actor when he plays drunk;
(f) Sylvia Sidney and her huge brown eyes are always awesome;
(g) Even a terrible drunk can do a good "meet cute" scene, although a woman should have more sense than to fall for a man who's sloshed to the gills the very first time you meet him.
(i) Background score music might have helped movies like this one, which dates from the years before they figured out either the technology or the need for a score;
(j) Ridiculously contrived endings are nothing new in the movies.
Sometimes rediscovery of neglected periods and genres of film, such as pre-Code films or film noir is a valid and valuable aspect of film history. And sometimes it's just a marketing hook for mediocre product. Can you guess where I'm going with this?