• U.S.

Cinema: The New Pictures: Apr. 12, 1937

8 minute read
TIME

Fifty Roads to Town (Twentieth Century-Fox) is an unambitious but consistently pleasant little farce, designed to exhibit as fetchingly as possible the qualifications of Producer Darryl Zanuck’s latest discovery, Indian-blooded Don Ameche, whose fan mail at Twentieth Century-Fox has lately been second only to Shirley Temple’s. Ameche is Peter Nostrand, a good-humored playboy who, while trying to escape from a bench warrant in a divorce suit, encounters Millicent Kendall (Ann Sothern’) trying to escape from an undesirable suitor. By the time both have been chased by the same motorcycle policeman into refuge at the same Adirondack cabin, Nostrand thinks Millicent is a summons server, she thinks he is a gangster. It takes the arrival at the cabin of a shaggy local trapper (Slim Summerville), a real gangster, a machine-gun posse led by the local sheriff (John Qualen), a blizzard and a tame rabbit to relieve their misapprehensions.

Produced by onetime Comedian Raymond Griffith, directed by Norman Taurog. Fifty Roads to Town’s principal claim to a permanent niche in cinema history is that it includes Hollywood’s first exposition of “the match game”—in which each player holds three or less matches in his right hand and all players guess at the total held. Good shot: Peter, Millicent and the trapper playing to see who sleeps in the cabin’s only bed. Son of a Kenosha, Wis. saloon keeper, Don Ameche attended Columbia (Iowa), Marquette, Georgetown and Wisconsin Universities in quick succession. In his vacations he worked. His easiest job was testing the finished product of a mattress factory. His hardest was in a cement factory, loading trucks. When he left college he joined the Jackson Stock Company whose leading man a week later conveniently broke his leg. Substituting for him, Ameche played a year in stock, took a vaudeville tour with the late Texas Guinan, made good on a Chicago radio hour. He did so well as a radio actor that he got a screen test from Producer Darryl Zanuck who, the day Ameche got to Hollywood, cast him in a tedious epic called Sins of Man.

Don Ameche (rhymes with peachy) lives on a San Fernando Valley ranch, drives ten miles into town for dinner because he finds his home “too lonely.” He is almost 6 ft. tall, 170 lb., fond of practical jokes of which his fellow professionals frequently make him the victim. Accused of being dull in his love scenes, Ameche has given cinemagazines the following alibi: “Valentino was the impetuous type . . . then he would slow up and make the ladies chase him. Mrs. Ameche would not care for this type of lover. . . .”

Elephant Boy (London Films) is an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Toomai of the Elephants, filmed by famed Director Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North, Moana, Man of Arari). With his grizzled father, his father’s elephant Kala Nag, an English white hunter and a group of seasoned Indian mahouts, picayune Toomai goes on a hunt for wild elephants. When a tiger kills his father, Kala Nag is given to another mahout. When the mahout mistreats him, Kala Nag runs amok. Disgusted with this situation, Toomai and Kala Nag run away from camp. A searching party finds them but by this time Toomai has found a herd of wild elephants, seen the legendary elephants’ dance. When the herd has been captured, Toomai is a hero. For a reward, he is allowed to keep Kala Nag, is made the ward of a famed elephant hunter.

Amusingly highlighted by scenes showing Toomai and Kala Nag stealing melons and Toomai making Kala Nag take a bath (see cut), magnificently climaxed by the elephant hunt, superbly photographed throughout, Elephant Boy is the first of three forthcoming Kipling pictures.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will shortly release Captains Courageous. Scheduled by RKO is Gunga Din. To make Elephant Boy, Director Flaherty, financed by Alexander Korda’s London Films, accompanied by Producer Korda’s brother Zoltan, spent two years in the province of Mysore. The Zanuck who, the day Ameche got to Hollywood, cast him in a tedious epic called Sins of Man.

Elephant Boy (London Films) is an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Toomai of the Elephants, filmed by famed Director Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North, Moana, Man of Arari). With his grizzled father, his father’s elephant Kala Nag, an English white hunter and a group of seasoned Indian mahouts, picayune Toomai goes on a hunt for wild elephants. When a tiger kills his father, Kala Nag is given to another mahout. When the mahout mistreats him, Kala Nag runs amok. Disgusted with this situation,Toomai and Kala Nag run away from camp. A searching party finds them but by this time Toomai has found a herd of wild elephants, seen the legendary elephants’ dance. When the herd has been captured, Toomai is a hero. For a reward, he is allowed to keep Kala Nag, is made the ward of a famed elephant hunter.

Amusingly highlighted by scenes showing Toomai and Kala Nag stealing melons and Toomai making Kala Nag take a bath (see cut), magnificently climaxed by the elephant hunt, superbly photographed throughout, Elephant Boy is the first of three forthcoming Kipling pictures. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will shortly release Captains Courageous. Scheduled by RKO is Gunga Din. To make Elephant Boy, Director Flaherty, financed by Alexander Korda’s London Films, accompanied by Producer Korda’s brother Zoltan, spent two years in the province of Mysore. The elephant hunt in the picture is a real one; it included a herd of 80, one of the biggest ever captured in Mysore, and one of Mysore’s biggest single wild elephants, who does not distinguish himself in the picture. Huge Kala Nag’s real name is Iravatha. His specialty is tricks, best of which, stepping over a prostrate child, he executes in Elephant Boy. Toomai’s real name is Sabu. Brought back to London to play parts in future London Films, he currently has a smart London apartment, drives about in his own midget car.

Top of the Town (Universal) is an example of the peanut-on-a-pyramid school of cinema. The peanut is a story about a struggling young orchestra leader (George Murphy) and a stage-struck heiress (Doris Nolan) who, when he makes it plain to her that she is a failure as a chorus girl, retaliates by hiring him to put on a show in her skyscraper night club. The pyramid is the irrelevantly impressive edifice of songs, dances and specialty acts supporting this picayune and wrinkled anecdote. On a broad base of music by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson, Universal’s first splurge in musicomedy since its reorganization superimposes tap dancing by George Murphy, who apes Fred Astaire, and by eleven-year-old Peggy Ryan, who apes Eleanor Powell; singing by Gertrude Niesen, imported from radio; clowning by The Three Sailors, imported from vaudeville; Scotch dialect by Ella Logan, who also sings, dances and makes faces; and specialty bits by Mischa Auer, Gregory Ratoff, Hugh Herbert, Henry Armetta. The climax occurs in the night club when patrons and performers mingle in a musical mob scene which for pure size is the most ambitious of the season. Best song: Top of the Town.

When Love Is Young (Universal). The best the class prophets could do for Wanda Werner (Virginia Bruce) of Wendensville, when their forecastings were made public at the commencement dance in the high-school gym, was that she would win the prize at the State fair for the biggest pumpkin. They did not mean to be unkind, but Wanda went home crying. She wanted no fame as a pumpkin grower, dreamed of singing opera.

In New York, the singing teacher told her frankly that if she liked to sing just for her own amusement, he would take her money. When she met Andy (Kent Taylor), a fresh pressagent, he was so rude she cried. To make amends he tried to exploit her farm background by having her drive a flock of geese across Broadway at the afternoon rush hour. For the first time in cinema history, newspapers treated this publicity stunt as wary metropolitan editors actually do treat such affairs—labeling it publicity and publishing it for its amusement value. Thereafter the story, scanning Wanda’s eventual appearance in a show, her disillusioned return to Wendensville, follows established lines of Cinderella fables but manages to keep out of the dullard class. Designed for neighborhood houses rather than Academy Awards, When Love Is Young is a neatly streamlined little double-biller.

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