Friday, December 3, 2010

Upperworld (1934) Roy Del Ruth

This is an odd little movie but not without its merits. The first is Warren William, a prominent star in early talkies due to his beautiful voice and patrician good looks that included a John Barrymore-ish profile. The second is Mary Astor, known more today for her appearance in “The Maltese Falcon” (also directed by Roy Del Ruth). She’s a status-seeking wife and William is her indulgent and very wealthy husband. Their son, who’s packed off to camp like we’d put our dog out, is played by popular child actor, Dickie Moore.

A young Ginger Rogers is a showgirl with a heart of gold, or greed. She’s attracted and attractive to William, who is otherwise a somewhat happily, though neglected, married man. Rogers’ boyfriend/manager is effectively played by J. Carroll Naish, who keeps his eye on the money.

A maybe affair ensues along with an attempt at blackmail, a couple of murders, and a scandalous trial. Along the way, you will meet Andy Devine as a pleasant chauffeur, John Qualen as a bribeable janitor, the handsome Robert Barrat as the police commissioner who may have been paid off, and the intrepid Sidney Toler, as a policeman who finds pertinent information and won’t be stifled.

The ending is somewhat abrupt and when the chauffeur props Dickie Moore up on the railing of a cruise ship to Europe, I have to admit I cringed.

But it’s interesting to see an early Ginger Rogers, who had only one pairing with Fred Astaire behind her; she was on the cusp of stardom. Dickie Moore went on to make more than 100 movies, retired at age 29, and married Jane Powell in 1988. Sidney Toler came to fame later for playing Charlie Chan from 1939-1946. Warren William died young in 1948 at age 54 and is not so well known today but should be appreciated for his body of work.

The movie is a Warner Brothers production and the musical credits go to Leo F. Forbstein. He signed with Warner Brothers in 1926 as head of the music department and director of the Vitaphone Orchestra. When he died in 1948, he had almost 600 credits to his name. This is a movie for movie buffs only but it has its worthy moments.

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