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Case Number 16188

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Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Three

Other Men's Women
1931 // 70 Minutes // Not Rated
Frisco Jenny
1932 // 70 Minutes // Not Rated
The Purchase Price
1932 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Heroes For Sale
1933 // 71 Minutes // Not Rated
Midnight Mary
1933 // 74 Minutes // Not Rated
Wild Boys Of The Road
1933 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // April 20th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Daryl Loomis is a wild boy of the sofa.

The Charge

"You read in the papers about giving people help. The banks get it. The soldiers get it. The breweries get it. And they're always yelling about giving it to the farmers. What about us? We're kids!"—from Wild Boys of the Road

Opening Statement

The general impression when people discuss films before the enforcement of the Hayes Production Code is that they are smutty and violent. While much of the focus in the pre-code releases has been on some of the seedier productions, that impression isn't true. All that term really represents is a time period, from the dawn of talkies until sometime in 1934, a period in which all sorts of films were made with all kinds of content in every genre. Warner Bros displays some of these films in their Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Three, with six entries over three discs (plus a fourth of documentaries) directed by Wild Bill Wellman. This sextet of pre-code cinema shows an eye for style and a social conscious rare at any time in Hollywood.

Facts of the Case

Other Men's Women: After years of riding the rails together as train operators, Jack (Regis Toomey, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) and Bill (Grant Withers, Mr. Wong in Chinatown) have become the best of friends. They're so close that Jack invites Bill to come stay with he and his wife Lily (Mary Astor, The Maltese Falcon) while they're not on assignment. It works well at first, but Bill and Lily wind up falling in love. When Bill reveals this to Jack, a fight ensues that leaves their train wrecked and Jack completely blind. Their falling out seems permanent. But when a flood threatens the entire town, Bill has an idea that, while suicidal, might save the town and bring two old friends back together.

The Purchase Price: Joan Gordon (Barbara Stanwyck, The Night Nurse) is sick of her life as a torch-singing do nothing. She can't leave, however, because her hoodlum boyfriend would just come find her. That's when she discovers that an acquaintance of hers has agreed to be the mail-order bride of a North Dakota farmer she's never met and has used Joan's picture in place of her own. Using this deception to her advantage, Joan pays off the woman and heads to the Dakota plains. Though they've never met and though the marriage is a sham, she and her new husband try to make it work but. Just as things are starting to smooth out, that stupid boyfriend comes halfway across the country to bring her home.

Frisco Jenny: Jenny (Ruth Chatterton, Female) has had a hard-scrabble background but, through it all, has become a successful madam in a San Francisco brothel. Long ago, she gave up her son, wanting him to have a better life than she could offer. When the heat is on to shut down these red-light houses, Jenny is brought up on charges. Only she knows, however, that the prosecuting attorney is her only son.

Midnight Mary: On trial for murder, career criminal Mary Martin (Loretta Young, Fast Life) recalls her life through flashbacks. Her poverty-stricken upbringing, her mistaken arrest that first introduced her to the gangster life, her time in a brothel where she met that handsome attorney who fell in love with her, it all leads to the crime that she is on trial for. She has decided to face the music and stand trial, rather than scandalize the attorney that helped her rise above her criminal life.

Heroes for Sale: A heroic ex-soldier (Richard Barthelmess, Four Hours to Kill!) comes home to find that heroism doesn't mean much in the job world. In spite of how hard he's worked over the years to make his life better and his company richer, as soon as the Depression hits and there is no work, none of that means anything anymore.

Young Boys of the Road: The Depression affected people of all classes. When two friends, one rich and one poor, find their parents out of work with mounting debt and no prospects, they take to the rails. Along with a girl they find along the way, they band the young rail runners they find together to make a veritable army of kiddy hobos, ready to fight for their right to survive.

The Evidence

For much of his career, William Wellman was known as a maverick, difficult to work with and anti-authoritarian. He would admit as much, but Wellman was also undeniably successful critically and commercially. Wings, his first directorial assignment, won the first Best Picture Oscar. Not a bad way to start a career, but he went on to make the careers of people like Robert Mitchum (G.I. Joe) and Richard Widmark (Yellow Sky). His desire to make films in every single genre available to him, including Tarzan pictures, allowed him to see all angles of storytelling and all styles of filmmaking. He was deftly able to compile this knowledge for use in each of his films; while he didn't hit the mark on all occasions, the tonal and stylistic mixtures are fascinating. It's a privilege to have the opportunity to look at six of his films from a point in his career where he was really coming into his own as an artist but before his stories would be muzzled by the production code.

Warner does well to give us a wide smattering of genres from Wellman's career, unofficially broken up by disc. The first disc, containing Other Men's Women and The Purchase Price, features films about the struggles of marriage and adultery. The second, with Frisco Jenny and Midnight Mary, deals with women trying to work out of the trouble they've caused for themselves. The final disc, Heroes for Sale and Wild Boys of the Road, are Depression-era social pictures with the current class struggle as a main theme in both. Breaking them up this way allows us to see the depths of Wellman's abilities and no-nonsense attitude under many different lights.

The best of the bunch is Heroes for Sale, which appears at first like a war picture, but slowly morphs into a heartbreaking story about the lack of value in courage and human life during the Depression. Starring Richard Barthlemess and Loretta Young, the film is finely acted by the leads, though there are some questionable supporting performances. The real strength of the film, however, is its heart. In this story, as well as in Wild Boys of the Road, which carries many similar themes while being a very different kind of film, Wellman shows a real compassion for the jobless, hungry masses. In the tender way in which he films them and in their steely resolve to survive, Wellman makes sure that these are the people who have our sympathy. Heroes for Sale is a surprising gem and, while Young Boys of the Road has much more of and East-Side Kids feel, it serves as a great compliment to the former.

Not all of the six films can be great, of course, but this collection has only one sub-par entry. Frisco Jenny, starring Ruth Chatterton in the title role, suffers from a dull script and lifeless performances from all but the lead. It isn't a bad movie by any means, but in relation to the other five, it looks worse than it actually is. Frisco Jenny is consistent with the other entries in the treatment of the female characters. Tough and independent, but driven by emotion, they are personified by fine actresses who electrify their roles. Mary Astor, Loretta Young, and especially the great Barbara Stanwyck add unbelievable depth to stories that, sometimes, are simplistic and coincidence-driven.

Warner Bros. knows what they're doing with this series, and Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Three is even a little better than their last two entries. The first three discs contain the films, which all sport good transfers with solid restoration work. The black and white contrast is generally excellent, with little wash out, and there is nearly no dirt or damage on the prints. The mono sound on each is equally fine, with good clarity and little noise. Though there isn't much for the sound system to do, it is strong and consistent throughout all the films. For each individual film, we have a screen of extras. All contain a cartoon from the Warner vaults and a short film, generally a cheesy mystery, which are very good for mimicking the old theater experience. Wild Boys of the Road, Heroes for Sale, and Midnight Mary feature commentaries as well. Finally, on the fourth disc, we have two documentaries. The feature length Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick, was produced by William Wellman, Jr. and is a richly detailed biography of the director. The shorter The Men Who Made the Movies: William Wellman is essentially an interview with the director and some commentary from his friends and family. Wellman was a great storyteller and a riot to listen to. Both are highly recommended viewing.

Closing Statement

It is a privilege to review this collection. Six great films from a great director in a time of untethered thought will forever be a treat to watch. The films are of great historical importance and quite entertaining.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Genres

• Classic
• Drama
• Romance

Scales of Justice, Other Men's Women

Video: 82
Audio: 82
Extras: 75
Acting: 87
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Other Men's Women

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 1931
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Other Men's Women

• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon

Scales of Justice, Frisco Jenny

Video: 81
Audio: 82
Extras: 75
Acting: 76
Story: 79
Judgment: 79

Perp Profile, Frisco Jenny

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 1932
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Frisco Jenny

• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon

Scales of Justice, The Purchase Price

Video: 83
Audio: 81
Extras: 75
Acting: 90
Story: 84
Judgment: 86

Perp Profile, The Purchase Price

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 1932
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Purchase Price

• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon

Scales of Justice, Heroes For Sale

Video: 88
Audio: 83
Extras: 82
Acting: 95
Story: 96
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile, Heroes For Sale

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Release Year: 1933
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Heroes For Sale

• Commentary
• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon

Scales of Justice, Midnight Mary

Video: 82
Audio: 82
Extras: 83
Acting: 86
Story: 85
Judgment: 86

Perp Profile, Midnight Mary

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 1933
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Midnight Mary

• Commentary
• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon

Scales of Justice, Wild Boys Of The Road

Video: 82
Audio: 81
Extras: 85
Acting: 83
Story: 92
Judgment: 86

Perp Profile, Wild Boys Of The Road

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 1933
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Wild Boys Of The Road

• Commentary
• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon








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