Thursday, March 02, 2017

24 HOURS (1931)

It's 11 p.m. on a snowy night in New York—each time the narrative moves forward, we get a shot of a skyscraper clock—when we see a delivery of bootleg brandy arriving at a party at which the atmosphere feels a bit tense. Clive Brook is getting drunk and his wife Kay Francis is disgruntled; Brook leaves early, walks off in the snow, and stops for a nightcap at a late-night diner (where there is blood in the snow outside because someone was gunned down on the street and dragged into the back room). Later, he heads to a nightclub and leaves with his mistress, club singer Miriam Hopkins—who says about herself, "I'm good leather, but I just ain't polished." They go to her place and he promptly passes out, and when her estranged husband (Regis Toomey), who has a reputation as a "hophead," arrives in the middle of the night to beg forgiveness, Hopkins throws him out. Meanwhile, Francis leaves the party with her lover (Minor Watson) but she cuts things off with him and goes home alone.  The next morning, Hopkins is dead and Brook is arrested as the most likely suspect.

This bleak pre-Code movie is more interesting than compelling, partly because despite the emphasis on "immoral" behavior, the plots follow predictable paths to redemption—for most of the characters at least. The frame of a 24-hour period and the wintry backdrop both make the film a little different, and some of the performances, especially from Hopkins and Toomey, are quite good. The director, Marion Gehring, gives the film a nice visual style, anticipating film noir a bit, but the gloomy tone and slow pace end up working against it. Still, a must for fans of pre-Code cinema and/or Kay Francis. Pictured are Hopkins and Brook. [YouTube]

No comments: