Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cinema Tuesdays {Stand-In}

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Truly one of the greatest forgotten comedies from the Golden Age is Stand-In from 1937. It's a marvellous satire about the film industry and about all of the takeover of Hollywood studios that occurred during the Great Depression. It's also one of the rare occasions of Humphrey Bogart (before he was Bogart) being hilarious in a comedy. He was cast in the role of the alcoholic, dog loving producer Douglas Quintain who calls everyone "sweetheart" (an unusual role since he typically played heavies during the Thirties) because his friend Leslie Howard insisted on it. You can really see their friendship better he than in The Petrified Forrest.
Leslie Howard plays Atterbury Dodd, a banker who is sent to act as the new head of Colossal Pictures to ensure that it makes a profit or else his bank will sell it and their stock holders (who are average working people) will be out of their investment.
Faced with the realization that a press agent, an eccentric foreign director and a star named Thelma Cheri, who can't act her way out of a paper bag, are deliberately running up costs of Quintain's picture Sex and Satan because the guy who wants to buy the studio and run it into the ground has bribed them, Dodd turns to Joan Blondell, who plays Lester Plum, a former child star who now works as a stand-in for Miss Cheri in order to help him in his task of saving the studio. The explanation given to poor Mr. Dodd, who has no knowledge of movies, whenever he questions the weird thing that go on in Hollywood is "That's the picture business".
Leslie Howard was a comedic genius at the art of subtle timing and should have made more comedies.

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The is a rare Region 1 DVD of Stand-In and you can buy it from Amazon, if you have a spare $100. TCM does show it once in a million years, I taped it last month during Joan Blondell day but I don't remember them showing it before that. There is no torrent, however a nice person just uploaded it to YouTube last week in nine parts.
Here is a funny clip and just look at the way that Leslie Howard underplays his reactions.

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