Friday, December 11, 2015

Pleasure Cruise at The Stanford Theater

I'm posting this just a little too late, but Pleasure Cruise actually got a theatrical engagement at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto. No, really!

Unfortunately, if you understand the concept of dates and time, you've missed it.

Photo credit: @veryserious

I'm pretty jealous, not just because Pleasure Cruise is a rarity in and of itself (*shakes fist* FOXXXX), but because, even though I lived in the Bay Area for three years, I never did make it down to The Stanford. I could blame that it it was a two hour drive from where I lived or the fact that their website looks like 2002 vomited into a hat, but, really, I just hadn't made time.

But that picture is awesome, and it's great to see Tobin's name in lights.  I will try and be on top of it for the ever-so-rare appearance of one of her films on the big screen in the future!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review - The Great Gambini (1937)

The Great Gambini (1937)

Starring: Akim Tamiroff, Marian Marsh, Reginald Denny, and Genevieve Tobin.
Director: Charles Vidor
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: June 1937
"I'm dizzy!"
"That's no news."

The Great Gambini is hard to pin down. Considering the inauspicious beginning and the rather showy opening credits, I expected a romantic triangle comedy with possibly some musical elements. When the film turns into a mystery in the second act, it's almost a relief-- most of the rather stuffy romantic plotting falls away and instead we're treated to a rather playful whodunit that stops taking itself seriously as soon as it can.

Tobin's in secondhand Billie Burke mode here, playing Nancy, a frivolous and talkative woman who is the butt of her emotionless husband's barbs. Functioning as the most broad of the comic relief, she's also perfectly in sync when the film turns towards the utterly anarchic in the latter two acts. Her facial expressions and delicate air of overacting real nail a few lame gags and elevate them nicely.

When I said that Tobin is playing Burke, it's frankly hard to imagine what would be changed if Burke was substituted. The only difference is that I could tell was that Tobin allowed Nancy to relish the insanity a bit more-- where Burke may have been flustered, Tobin indulges her character as needed.

The star of the picture is Akim Tamiroff who plays a mentalist that pops up to solve the case. It's a fantastic performance, both playful and tragic. Preston Sturges regular William Demarest and reliable second banana Edward Brophy (who popped up in a number of Thin Man films) are sent in to investigate the murder with appropriate amounts of bluster and confusion. The moment when Deamrest learns who the killer is so funny, I honestly rewound the film to watch it twice-- Tobin's reaction selling it to pieces.

Star Marian Marsh shot to fame in the early 1930s in a pair of movies playing sweet and innocent to John Barrymore's cruel masters in Svengali and The Mad Doctor. She took off for Europe to make a few films in 1932 but mostly succeeding in simply derailing her career, with her appearance in 1935's Crime and Punishment being her last great role.

She's mostly useless here, just looking upset, which is even nicer than what I'd have to say about romantic lead John Trent, who was, as IMDB notes, an aviator-turned-actor-turned-aviator and the last switch is well deserved. Reginald Denny (who apparently used his paycheck from this film to invest in a remote controlled bomb project) is good as Tobin's counterweight. He's blissfully annoyed at his own choice to marry Nancy (he's apparently her fourth husband) and masterfully concealing his emotions from his daughter in terms of her life decisions.

Director Charles Vidor would go onto become a bit of a Svengali himself, directing Rita Hayworth in two of her best pictures, Cover Girl and Gilda. On that latter point, the stage show that Gambini puts on in this film is remarkably well lit and haunting. He gives the film a fine air, utilizing a number of tracking shots to keep the film moving swiftly.

A mixture between a family screwball comedy and a Thin Man knockoff, The Great Gambini has a great atmosphere-- if you know what you're getting into.


The review from Silver Screen magazine is upbeat about the film, saying "a good time is had by all except the corpse."

Contemporary Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings really enjoys this film, calling it one of the most entertaining mysteries of the thirties.

Film Daily calls it a "top flight program production."

Rated A-II by the Legion of Decency.



Being a Paramount film means that Universal currently owns it, which also means that you're not seeing it on video any time soon.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Interview - "Why Genevieve Tobin Has Never Married"

Tobin's love life is a fascination for me. Her One Hour with You and Pleasure Cruise are embodiments of free love that that seem to contradict Tobin's own experiences in the dating field. Though how far is still up for investigation.

This article, from Movie Classic, discusses the impossibly high standards Tobin has for a husband. This includes, "the virility of Clark Gable, the intelligence of Leslie Howard, the dignity of Clive Brook, and, if I may say so, the sheer nerve of James Cagney." I'm sure another few film bloggers I know would add an 'amen' to that.

But Tobin doesn't stop there. The man she wants should be 1. rich, 2. not a doctor, 3. not an actor less famous than her, 4. a church-goer (denomination unlisted), 5. be able to play golf, tennis, and polo, 6. read good books, 7. drink fine wine, 8. have traveled the world, 9. like kidneys, 10. hate eggplants, 11. drink champagne, 12. cook, 13. be a Garbo fan, 14. not eat before bed, 15. not read before bed, 16. not be a fortune hunter., 17. live in England, 18. tall, 19. dark, and 20. very strong. Not exactly aiming for lowest common denominator here.

There are nice little asides that reveal some stuff I didn't know. One is that Tobin plays the harp (!). Another is that she preferred pajamas over nightgowns-- more power to her, I suppose.

Another bit goes into the actress' appreciation for Garbo,

This part may be more revealing than the rest of it, since it speaks to a certain amount of standards and judiciousness. When Tobin admits later in the article that she's a snob, that should come as no surprise-- she has high taste and high expectations. It fits in perfectly. 

I also learned, besides George and Vivian, Tobin had another sibling, a brother whose name I have yet to discover. Interesting.

The last interesting bit is that she wanted two children. This never happened, so I wonder whether it was Keighley or something else that changed.

Speaking of whom, this article was published in mid-1932. Two years later and she'd meet her future husband.



Hall, Gladys. (August 1932). "Why Genevieve Tobin Has Never Married." Movie Classic. p. 56, 81, 82.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review - Broadway Hostess (1935)

Broadway Hostess (1935)

Starring: Lyle Talbot, Wini Shaw, Genevieve Tobin, and Allen Jenkins
Director: Frank McDonald
Studio: Warner Bros./Vitaphone/First National
Release Date: December 1935
"All women are the same, especially where men are concerned." 
Broadway Hostess can be categorically summed up as a bad idea. As a film, I wouldn't be surprised if it were made up as it went along.

Lyle Talbot plays a small time talent man named Lucky who stumbles upon Winnie (Shaw) one day auditioning for a nightclub part. She's fresh off the bus and has the knack, so the two ride each other's coattails to success. The problem is that Winnie loves Lucky, but he's too preoccupied with success to even notice.

Part of that success involves him falling in love with Iris (Tobin), the daughter of a wealthy tycoon. She has a bum brother named Ronnie (Donald Moss) who drinks, gambles, and hates those damnable lower class people something fierce.

Iris could probably be considered a bit of a snob herself, because she turns down lucky when he proposes marriage. (Notably after she somehow gives him a black eye in a game of badminton.) However, considering she tells him that it's often like they don't speak the same language and he doesn't understand that, it's safe to say her fears are probably founded.

Lucky grows incensed and vengeful. OH, HE'LL MARRY HER ALRIGHT. So he opens a gambling parlor and tricks her brother into losing tens of thousands of dollars to him. (This is never explicitly stated, but considering we see Lucky's best pal, Fishcake (Jenkins), fooling around with loaded dice, it isn't a stretch.) Through a serious of improbable events, an improbable conclusion occurs where Iris and Lucky do end up marrying. The implication is that Iris marries him out of either guilt or to save her brother from being arrested, but, again, this isn't addressed and the marriage is instantly blissful.

Winnie, meanwhile, lost all of her money trying to help Lucky out from a short jail sentence. To help her make it back, Lucky puts on a Broadway show and casts her. Ronnie, cut off from his money, shoots Lucky during intermission of the play's opening night. He's rushed to the hospital, but the show must go on-- apparently. Winnie is too distraught to continue, much to the audience's surprise-- Why would this woman become upset after someone was shot?

For being called Broadway Hostess, not much of its runtime is devoted to Winnie's story. Shaw, whose biggest success came the same year singing "The Lullaby of Broadway" in The Gold Diggers of 1935, seems to be front and center to cash in. She gets a few numbers to sing throughout, and while some of the choreography is inventive, they're definitely cheap compared to Busby Berkeley's output. Surprisingly, this film is actually Oscar nominated for one of Shaw's songs, which I guess means there must not have been a lot of competition for that year.

Compared to Tobin's other films of 1935-- actually compared to most other films in general, Broadway Hostess is step down.


Movie Classic said, "it lacks vitality."

Not that this movie was unappreciated by everyone not entranced by Winnie Shaw, but here's a pull quote found in Film Bulletin:

Screenshot Gallery


This film is currently unavailable, but shows occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.

"And this is..." "Fishcake Carter!" "... yes."