The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century, and driving down to the AFI-Silver last weekend to see Three on a Match, the best of Talbot's pre-Code movies.
With another Lyle Talbot double feature on tap this weekend, Katie-Bar-The-Door and I returned to the AFI, this time for a pair of films in which he co-starred with the great Barbara Stanwyck.
With plenty of Wellmanesque touches—drunks, rough humor, and fist fights—it's all fun enough and fast enough to smooth over the abrupt about-faces in character motivations this 68-minute Warner Brothers feature treats us to.
The story is simple enough. Stanwyck gets caught helping boyfriend Lyle pull a bank job and winds up serving two-to-five in San Quentin, but the twists and turns in the subsequent love story—"I love you I hate you I love you I shot you let's get married!"—happen so fast and for no apparent reason that even filmgoers as forgiving as Katie and I found ourselves looking at each other in bemused befuddlement.
Warner movies of this era were very short, typically clocking in around 65 minutes and moving at such a breakneck pace that even studio executives worried they were shortchanging their audience. In this case, co-directors Howard Bretherton and William Keighley stripped away every ounce of context and exposition, leaving nothing for the audience to hang its emotional hat on. Add in a women's prison that's more fun than a college sorority house and the goofiest prison break in movie history and you've got yourself a drama that inadvertently veers into camp.
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