Wednesday, June 13, 2018

There It Goes

I recently watched There Goes My Heart (1938), one of the countless romantic comedies made in the early days of sound.  The 1930s (and early 40s) are Hollywood's golden age of romantic comedy but that doesn't mean they're all top tier.  There Goes My Heart is a good example of the more run-of-the-mill sort that audiences usually saw.

The basic concept is not especially original.  A beautiful heiress is unhappy with her life, so she escapes from the boat where she's being held and goes underground. She starts working as a salesgirl in a department store her family owns, and is soon followed by a newspaperman who wants to reveal who she is.  They start to fall in love, however, and are split apart before they finally end in each others' arms.

There are so many famous moves this plot takes from--It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes To Down, My Man Godfrey, etc.--that the audience must have felt a sense of deja vu.  It stars Virginia Bruce--not quite A-list, but lovely and game--and Frederic March, a bigger name and Oscar-winner who sometimes tried his hand at comedy (just the year before he'd played another newspaper reporter in the classic screwball Nothing Sacred) but wasn't exactly Cary Grant.  In support are some of the great character actors of the era such as Patsy Kelly, Eugene Pallette and Alan Mowbray.

The concept is good enough to make something of, but the writers and director (Norman McLeod, who made some decent comedies) don't seem able to handle it.  Incidentally, the story idea is credited to Ed Sullivan. Since the idea is so basic, was this to get on his good side, as he was a major columnist and broadcaster?

The film starts okay, where Bruce is complaining to her grandfather (usually it's the father) that she's not having any fun. Meanwhile, March is a rebel reporter who's tired of listening to his editor.  We've seen this all before, but it goes down easy enough.  It's once the complications start that the movie's in trouble.

Bruce, on the streets of New York with no money, meets Patsy Kelly and moves in with her.  There's a lot of alleged comedy with Kelly's fiancé, played by Mowbray, but it goes nowhere and adds nothing to the plot.

March, who was assigned to cover Bruce by boss Pallette, though he considers her a spoiled brat, discovers by chance where she's working.  You think he'd go for the big story right away, since everyone is looking for the missing heiress, but he decides to take his time, for some reason.  He also gets someone to take photos of her while he's allegedly buying something, but in a poorly done comedy scene, we can tell her face is blocked in all the photos.  Then, for some reason, he tells his boss about the film roll, but decides to hold onto it, not develop it right away.  Why?  We keep waiting for the shoe to drop, but when it finally does, very late in the movie, we don't care any more.

His romance with her, which is central to the film, never quite works.  The screenwriters have to balance them falling in love with him betraying her, but it's never clear where he's at in the relationship, or what he thinks he doing.

Late in the film they sail to a nearby island where he's got some sort of run-down shack of a house that no one knows about.  It's supposed to be romantic, but it's more huh, what's that?

Then, when he should be making his move to show he loves her, he takes far too long for no reason, and she finds out what's actually happening, just as her grandfather catches up to her. (The grandfather and his servants aren't particularly funny, and they occasionally pop up in the film destroying whatever rhythm the plot has.)

The two are split, but for a split second.  Then they're back without much explanation.  Then Kelly and Mowbray have a minister drop by (played by Harry Langdon, no less, and he's not even credited!).  Was this necessary?

The dialogue never rises above serviceable, and the farcical comedy is mostly awkward--including a lengthy sequence in a skating rink that's supposed to show the characters bonding, but seems to go on forever.  But I could live with all that is the plot flowed properly. Good writers know how to build, so the story and characters draw you in and get you concerned over what will happen next, but There Goes My Heart is too haphazard to do that.  (Still better than most comedies today.)


Blogger New England Guy said...

I went through a phase two years ago of watching unknown (to me) black and white movies- mainly noir - that were included with Amazon Prime and while entertaining, you understanding why a lot of them were unknown. I did get to see to some strange little bits. For example- I saw more than one example of what I would call some pretty open (and strange) foot fetishism with the romantic leads in what today I'm guessing would be a sex scene - a go-to exception under the Hays Code? Also its fun to see "veteran character actors" pop up here and there -saw a lot of Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch and Cora the Coffee Lady) popping up as the grumpy housekeeper or landlady and I hit a trifecta with a 1950s file "The Killer is Loose" (I think- I'm doing this from memory and am too lazy to go to imdb) in which Skipper from Gilligan's Island, Chief O'Hara from Batman and Mr. Drucker (of multiple series) all pop up in small roles.

7:01 AM, June 14, 2018  
Blogger LAGuy said...

The all-time winner for distracting TV actors before their time is The High Cost Of Loving, a 1958 comedy starring Jose Ferrer and Gena Rowlands. It also features Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III), Edward Platt (Chief), Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink), Richard Deacon (Mel Cooley) and Nancy Kulp (Miss Hathaway)

9:19 AM, June 14, 2018  

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