Friday, April 27, 2012

Adventure in Manhattan (1936)



One plotline you can usually count on seeing in old films is a newspaper reporter who is following a big story. He is hot on the trails of the bad guy because the police do not know what they are doing. Along for the chase is a girl the reporter has just met and is somehow involved in the case but they are crazy for each other even if they do not know it. In the end the reporter solves the case, gets the big scoop for a very frustrated editor, and gets the girl. That is how the Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur film Adventure in Manhattan plays out but with a few twists.
            The latest news in New York City is about a valuable ruby that has been stolen. Every newspaper in town is writing about with no variations. Editor Phil Blane (Thomas Mitchell) wants someone from his paper to add a woman to the story or anything just to make their paper different. In walks a young reporter named George Melville (McCrea). George is a very good observer which makes the other reporters think he can predict the future. He predicts what will happen based on past events and more so for the fact that he believes the thief is still alive under a different name.
            On his way home from the office he runs into a woman on the streets asking for money. Before he can give her anything an accident happens and runs away from the woman. When goes to leave he realizes his wallet has been stolen. George follows the woman to a salon where she comes out all nice with a new hairdo and dress. He grabs her by the arm tells her he is going to take her to the police but first he wants to take her out to dinner. Over dinner the woman named Claire Peyton (Arthur) tells George that today is her little daughter’s birthday and that she has not seen the daughter in four years. The reason she stole the money was to get herself fixed up. Out of sympathy George takes her to her husband’s house but when they get there the little girl has died. George takes Claire back to his place. She asks him for a favor to go get the ring her daughter was wearing. George goes to the house but no one is there and guard says that the owner has been away in Europe for months. When George goes to the telephone inside the house he gets the surprise of his life when the other reporters he was talking to that day come out telling him that everything was a joke. Claire is just an actress they hired to go along with the gag. They just wanted to pull a joke on him. A man named Blackton Gregory helped to put everything together he is a Broadway producer who happens to be financing Claire’s latest play.
            Still in the house the group hears a gunshot go off in the house next door. They learn that a priceless painting has been stolen. As the audience we find out that Blackton is the one behind the painting theft as well as the theft of the ruby. He plans to have George join his side after he finds out that George is a collector and admirer of artistic things.
            George and Claire meet for lunch. He tells Claire they are going to The Ritz and by The Ritz he meant his apartment. George plays it cute dressing up as a waiter with the apron and a hat on his head. All his has in his cupboards is cans of beans. Blackton finds his way to George’s place. They discuss the thefts and George explains why he believes the thief is still alive: the man wants the things that he stole because he could not purchase them they were not for sale.
            George makes another prediction. He tells his editor that the next place to be hit will be the vault in the bank next to the theater where Claire’s play will be running. Not knowing that Blackton is the thief Claire lets slip George’s prediction. Blackton has the robbery pushed back to the opening night. George is put to shame when the robbery does not happen since he boss had the whole story written up and ready to go for minutes after the robbery. For days after he is fired Claire is worried about George he seems to be going crazy. Blackton lets George stay at his mountain home to recuperate.
            From the way George is acting it may seem obvious that he has something going on that he is on track to catching the thief. With his observation, some acting, and Claire’s help George helps the police catch Blackton.
            Now I really liked Joel McCrea I feel he played his character very nicely. Reginald Owen was fabulous as Blackton Gregory he had the perfect look, mannerisms and speech for a bad guy. Jean Arthur I could not get into. The character was good I did not mind the character but Arthur I was not a fan of. This was the first time I have ever seen Jean Arthur in a film. I am not sure what I was expecting if I was expecting anything about or from her. For one thing her voice completely threw me for a loop it was a bit high and at times got annoying. I am not going to pass judgment on her acting until I have seen more of her films which I would like to do.
            When I first heard the newspaper editor Phil Bane speak I could not get over how familiar his voice was. All I have to say is thank God for IMBD because Thomas Mitchell who played Bane is Gerald O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. I love his Irish temper and love it and understand it even more when I read he was born and grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey (north Jersey is notorious for the bad, tough attitudes. And it is mostly where all the Jersey Shore- type people come from).
            Adventure in Manhattan is a cute crime story but typical of the time period. Definitely worth a viewing for Joel McCrea and the interesting twists with his character and the story.