Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Phillip Eden is a gambling playboy with a difference: he has a small daughter in tow, Alice, who is devoted to him and whom he has stolen away from his ex-wife Florence. One night, after Phillip has lost his last dollar and is cooking some soup at the stove, his former mistress Bernice arrives at his shabby apartment to tell him that Florence is on his trail and will be arriving soon to take Alice back. Phillip ties Bernice up in the apartment and goes on the run with his little girl, not realizing that the stove never got turned off—the place fills with gas and Bernice dies. Eventually the police catch up with Phillip in Italy and he's sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Florence takes Alice, who over the years forgets about Phillip. Eleven years later, Alice's former nurse visits Phillip to tell him that Alice had an accident and can no longer walk; she suspects that Alice could recover, but her mother has willfully turned her into an invalid and has discouraged her from dating Stephen, a charming young newspaperman. Phillip breaks out of prison and goes to see Alice. Florence tries to send him away but he pretends to be John, a brother of Phillip's, and ingratiates himself not only with Alice, but also the butler and Stephen, Alice's would-be beau. Can Phillip free Alice from her mother’s influence before the police catch on to who he really is?

This rarely-seen drawing-room melodrama is nothing special, but it has its moments. It would be a lot more interesting if someone other than the uninteresting Richard Dix played the lead—he's not terrible, but he's just so colorless and sluggish. Growing a mustache when he adopts the brother persona helps a bit. The movie feels like a non-comedic spin on the philosophy at the center of YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU and AUNTIE MAME—one (specifically, Alice) should not live life afraid, but instead live freely and fully. Dorothy Wilson, who has a quirky but pretty face, is fine as the daughter; Erin O'Brien-Moore is good as the unsympathetic mother; Bruce Cabot is the boyfriend; Eily Malyon, who often plays sinister maids, is fine in the small role of the non-sinister nurse. If only someone like Ronald Colman or William Powell had been given the lead.  [TCM]

No comments: