Tod Andrews

Men of the Sky (1942, B. Reeves Eason)

Men of the Sky opens with General Henry H. Arnold addressing a graduating class of air cadets. Charles P. Boyle’s Technicolor photography is glorious and Harold McKernon’s editing is outstanding and Sky feels like an almost too precious time capsule.

Only then the realism shatters when Arnold starts directly addressing actors, not actual air cadets. All of a sudden, though Boyle’s photography remains wondrous throughout, Sky‘s propaganda becomes a chore to stomach. The problem’s Owen Crump’s script. Crump also narrates the short, so he’s at least enthusiastic in that responsibility, but he can’t string the elements together.

I think Eleanor Parker–as the wife of one of the pilots–has the most lines (like two of them); she’s only in it for thirty seconds. None of the cast are particularly distinctive, not even with Crump trying so hard.

Even as propaganda, Sky is bad. Crump’s too awful a writer.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by B. Reeves Eason; written by Owen Crump; director of photography, Charles P. Boyle; edited by Harold McLernon; produced by Gordon Hollingshead; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Tod Andrews (Cadet Frank Bickley), Eleanor Parker (Mrs. Frank Bickley), Don DeFore (Cadet Dick Mathews), Ray Montgomery (Cadet Jim Morgan), Ruth Ford (Cadet Gladdens’ Sweetheart), Dave Willock (Bob ‘Sir Galahad’ Gladdens) and Henry H. Arnold (Himself); narrated by Owen Crump.


The Last Ride (1944, D. Ross Lederman)

I’m a fan of Warner Bros.’s old hour-long b-movies, so I found The Last Ride particularly distressing. It’s not poorly directed–Lederman even has one or two really good shots–and the writing, at least scenically, isn’t bad. There are some funny moments and the teaser is excellent. It all falls apart pretty quickly, however (it is only fifty-six minutes). The film’s continuity editing is real sloppy, like they shot scenes based on one script, didn’t shoot the rest of the scenes, and let everything sort of clash. The first time, it’s annoying, but by the second… it’s a significant strike against the film.

There’s also the problem with the script in terms of the characters’ stupidity. They’re real dumb, missing the most obvious things. Makes it real hard to care about them. There’s also the case of the disappearing character–Eleanor Parker disappears after two scenes, Mary Gordon is gone by the twenty minute mark (she has the really good comedic scene)–and these aren’t characters the movie, given how the story develops, can do without. They’re needed to react and to interact and they’re gone (probably off shooting other Warner Bros. pictures, but whatever). Richard Travis manages to hold the film up on his own longer than I thought one person could, but even he buckles under the poor handling of the script’s developments.

Besides Travis (and Tod Andrews in a small role), most of the performances are wobbly. Cy Kendall is good in parts, too much in others. Same with Charles Lang. Parker’s barely in it, Gordon’s expositional introduction of her doing more to establish the character than Parker has time to do. The opening setup is better acted than the rest of the film, by actors who don’t stick around long, only because their story is more interesting–if a lot more sensational–than what follows.

My favorite part is the end, when there are all these leftover lines from when The Last Ride was going to run ninety minutes. The way it ends, it’s like at least fifteen was lopped off… it just stops at the earliest convenient point.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by D. Ross Lederman; written by Raymond L. Schrock; director of photography, James Van Trees; edited by Harold McLernon; music by William Lava; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Richard Travis (Detective Lt. Pat Harrigan), Charles Lang (Mike Harrigan), Eleanor Parker (Kitty Kelly), Jack La Rue (Joe Genna), Cy Kendall (Capt. Butler), Wade Boteler (Police Chief Delaney), Mary Gordon (Mrs. Mary Kelly), Harry Lewis (Harry Bronson) and Tod Andrews (Fritz Hummel).


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