Saturday, June 27, 2015

Part Time Wife

[The film was not released in Finland]. US © 1930 Fox Film Corp. D: Leo McCarey. Story: based on The Shepper-Newfounder by Stewart Edward White. SC: Raymond L. Schrock, Leo McCarey, Howard Green. DP: George Schneiderman. ED: Jack Murray. C: Edmund Lowe (Jim Murdock), Leila Hyams (Mrs. Murdock / Betty Rogers), Tom Clifford (Tommy), Walter McGrail (Johnny Spence), Louis Payne (il maggiordomo), Sam Lufkin (il capo caddie), Bodil Rosing (la cameriera), George ‘Red’ Corcoran (l’autista). P: Fox Film Corp. 35 mm. 67’ (incompleto). B&w. English version. From: UCLA Film & Television Archive.
    Reel 1B was lost to deterioration before the title was preserved, missing approximately 300 metres.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna (Il Cinema Ritrovato) with e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti, 27 June 2015
    Introduced by Dave Kehr and Steve Massa.

Steve Massa (Il Cinema Ritrovato catalogue and website): "In 1929 Leo McCarey resigned from the Hal Roach Studio. He later joked that his decision to leave came from realizing how ridiculously healthy Hal Roach appeared and that as vice-president there’d be little chance for his advancement (Roach did make it to age one hundred, outliving the younger McCarey by twenty-three years). About his time making shorts Leo said: “I owe a good part of my success to them – and nothing could have replaced that experience – all the ideas were original and new. It was because of the success of these films that I was able to make a reputation, and to direct features and, in a sense climb the ladder”. The next few years saw him moving around to various studios trying to find his way in full-length films. His first stop was Pathé for the college comedy The Sophomore and the musical Red Hot Rhythm (both 1929), and he then tried his hand in drama at Fox with Wild Company (1930)."

"He had a popular hit with the Paramount musical Let’s Go Native (1930), and returned to Fox to secure his success with Part Time Wife (1930) – a huge hit that he felt was the first really recognizable ‘Leo McCarey’ picture, which also enabled him to double his asking price. The comic incompatablity of husband and wife Edmund Lowe and Leila Hyams prefigures that of Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth (1937), and in fact McCarey reworked specific scenes from Part Time Wife in the latter film and felt that they were better executed the second time around. More involved in the writing than any of his previous features, he also introduced a bit of his soon to be signature sentiment with the comedy in the character of a worldly-wise young caddy. From here he went to United Artists for a lackluster experience helming Indiscreet (1931) with Gloria Swanson, and even spent a brief time at MGM directing Marie Dressler and Polly Moran in Prosperity (1932), but by the time it was released the directing credit went to Sam Wood."

"Following the Eddie Cantor hit The Kid from Spain (1932) McCarey finally settled in at Paramount where he would emerge with some of his early signature films." (Steve Massa)

AA: Steve Massa reports above that the director felt that Part Time Wife was the first really recognizable Leo McCarey feature film, and indeed there is already much of the dynamics of The Awful Truth on display here. The continuity to the Hal Roach shorts is also still evident in the comedy business on the golf course and in the prominent role played by the mongrel dog. There is even a Charley Chase connection in the characters of the husband (Edmund Lowe) and the rival (Walter McGrail).

I have sometimes a hard time in caring for such protagonists of comedies of remarriage because they are either so career-centered or so self-centered, or, as here, both: also Betty Murdock / Betty Rogers (Leila Hyams) has a career as a golf champion.

Here husband Jim tries to win his wife back via golf, and thus gets to know a child caddie, Tommy, an orphan boy living in a shack under a bridge, with a mongrel dog as his companion. In the climactic golf match between Jim and the rival, Johnny Spence, the dog ruins everything. Jim gives up and lets Johnny be the winner. But the chain of reactions to the boy and the dog means that Jim gets Betty back, and in a deeper way, he gets his life back; he gets his self back (or discovers it).

The darkest part in the chain of reactions is the fate of the mongrel dog in the gas chamber at the dog catcher's. But there is a last minute rescue.

Edmund Lowe and Walter McGrail are no matches for Charley Chase or Cary Grant, but Leila Hyams is a perfect Leo McCarey leading lady.

The print is based on the only surviving elements and is the best there is. There is that one reel (of ten minutes) missing, but film is watchable even so. The visual quality of the image in this UCLA print is fine.

No comments: