Year: 1934

Director: Wood Van Dyke

Cast: Robert Montgomery, Maureen O’Sullivan, Mickey Rooney

Hide-Out begins as a gangster film and evolves into a romantic comedy, a smooth under the direction of Woody Van Dyke. In the first minutes of the movie, Lucky Wilson (Robert Montgomery), a playboy and racketeer is juggling five women. First, we find Lucky in the apartment of a woman with whom he apparently spent the night yet he is on the phone making a date with another woman. Soon as he hangs up, the maid walks in and he quickly plans a rendezvous with her. After he leaves the apartment, a car waiting to pick him up there is still another woman waiting with open arms in the backseat whom he tells he’s “crazy about.”

They go to a new nightclub and before they are even seated, Lucky is eyeing the female singer on stage. He signals to her of his interest and they make a date while she is in the middle of performing her song. It‘s a cute scene that does not go over very well with his current girl sitting at the table who is watching this whole scene play out.

In between his dates with women, Lucky is selling “protection” to night club owners. Unfortunately, for Lucky, one of the disgruntled club owners has squealed to the cops about the protection racket and the police are now out to arrest Lucky. The police close in that night as they follow him to the apartment of the singer who he made plans to meet after the show. There’s a shootout, and Lucky escapes but not before being shot.

Wounded, Lucky manages to get to a car and flees the city ending up in Connecticut. Bleeding badly he is found slumped over in his car by Henry Miller a local farmer. When he wakes up, he finds himself at the home of the Miller’s, a wholesome family who take care of him while his wounds heal. Never out of New York before, Lucky can’t wait to go back to the city until he meets the Miller’s daughter Pauline (Maureen O’Sullivan). It is at this point, that this “gangster” flick turns into a romantic comedy. We now have a fish out of water story about a city guy in the country and out of his element on the farm.

Life is idyllic for Lucky with the Millers, he learns how to feed the chickens and milk the cows and other farm chores. Lucky pursues Pauline and they fall in love. There’s a very tender romantic scene where they kiss for the first time confessing their love for each other, a high point in the film. He also realizes at that same time that his past life, which the Miller’s know nothing about, will come back to haunt him. It soon does in the face of his nemesis Lt. McCarthy (Edward Arnold). Lucky will have to pay for his past. He tells Pauline all about his former life and she tells him she will wait for him. Love conquers all in this tender entertaining film.

Montgomery and O’Sullivan make a good looking pair and have plenty of chemistry between them. Also in the film is Mickey Rooney as Pauline’s kid-brother, Willie, who I admit I did not find as annoying as I sometime do. Edward Arnold and Elizabeth Patterson are also good in their roles as Lt. MacCarthy and Ma Miller.

1934 was a good year for director Woody Van Dyke. Beside Hide-Out he directed Robert Montgomery in Forsaking All Others with Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. That same year Van Dyke directed Manhattan Melodrama with Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy and The Thin Man with Powell, Loy and Maureen O’Sullivan.

Hide-Out is an enjoyable and distinctive film mixing genres, with a fine cast. A nice way to spend 80 minutes.

The Man in Possession (1931) and Personal Property (1937)

The Story: Raymond Dabney returns to his family after serving a prison term. His adoring mother welcomes him back with open arms, but his uptight father and brother Claude want to pay him to leave town. Raymond refuses the insulting offer and stumbles into a job working for the sheriff as a man in possession, assigned to the home of socialite Crystal Weatherby. Crystal is formerly wealthy, but has fallen on hard times after the death of her husband and cannot pay her bills, so Raymond must stay at her house and make sure she doesn’t try to sell any of her possessions. Crystal, meanwhile, is attempting to marry a rich man who can take care of her problems.

The fundamental difference between these films comes down to the times in which they were made. Six years may not seem like that much of a difference, but in terms of filmmaking it’s an enormous difference. The Man In Possession was made in the middle of the pre-code era, when a story about a morally questionable man staying alone in a big house with a sexy socialite could flourish. In 1937, the production code was being strictly enforced, and so many possibilities for this story are simply not allowed.

The Man In Possession….. Directed by Sam Wood
Starring…..
Robert Montgomery, Charlotte Greenwood, Irene Purcell, C.Aubrey Smith, Reginald Denny, Alan Mowbry

Robert Montgomery is cast as Raymond, and there’s nobody who could have played the role better. He was the best actor of the era. He had a huge range, but he seemed to delight in playing these kinds of roles – sexually charged, morally questionable, but ultimately decent and incredibly romantic men. He rules the role with a special gleam in his eye. He’s sexy, he’s mischievous, and we can tell from the very beginning that no lady would stand a chance resisting him. He’s not at all intimidating, though. He’s charming, and as the film goes on he becomes more and more romantic.

Irene Purcell is his leading lady. Purcell was a stage actress, and she made less than 10 films (and only a few of note). But she’s really a delightful actress. She has a quality that makes her perfect for Crystal in a way no other actress could be. She doesn’t feel like a movie star, which makes her more believable and likeable as social climbing schemer. Actresses like Joan Crawford or Constance Bennett could have played the role, but not as convincingly as Purcell. Crystal is a really unique character. She’s classy in a way, but it’s a feigned class. Like Montgomery, there’s a little gleam in her eye. She’s just coarse enough to be his perfect match.

The Man In Possession uses its pre-code status to perfect advantage. Like I said before, it’s a story that’s tailor-made for the era. These two beautiful, mischievous people spending the night in a house alone together? How can that be anything else but a pre-code set up. Their chemistry alone in scenes where they’re simply verbally sparring almost seems indecent. And then there’s the sex. It’s some of the most blatant I’ve ever seen in classic film. Obviously, it’s not an explicit sex scene, but it’s more than implied with the two of them kissing, falling back on the couch, the light turning off, and Crystal sighing Raymond’s name. And then, if there was any doubt about what happened, the next morning the maid finds Crystal’s nightgown at the end of the bed. Ripped in half.

But beyond the pre-code goodness, it’s just a great romance because of the chemistry between Montgomery and Purcell. They don’t just have sexual chemistry. They fell like two souls who are perfectly matched. It’s more than sex. It’s completely believable that in the span of one night together the two have fallen completely in love. That’s why the film works so well. It’s more than just a fun sex romp. It’s a wonderful love story.


Personal Property
……. Directed by WS Van Dyke
Starring….
Jean Harlow, Robert Taylor, Reginald Owen, Una O’Conner

Robert Taylor doesn’t really fit into the role of Raymond. He’s incredibly handsome, and he has a certain sex appeal to him, but not really the kind that the character needs. Try as he might, Taylor never seems like he can really be a bad boy criminal, at least not in this point in his career. In the 1940s, he created a fantastic gangster in Johnny Eager, but obviously in 1937 his talent hadn’t really evolved past the handsome good guy leading man roles. He never pulls off the mischievousness that is the main characteristic of Raymond. Nor does he really pull of that raw sexuality that initially draws Crystal to him in the first place.

I adore Jean Harlow, but she isn’t right for the role of Crystal either. Harlow was a wonderful actress with a huge range, and it seems like she should be able to play Crystal, perhaps as a lighter version of her Dinner at Eight character. But somehow in this film she doesn’t find the proper balance that the character needs between crass gold digger and romantic heroine. Most of the time she simply comes off as too unlikable and completely without class. It’s such an odd performance, because Harlow was one of the sexiest, most charismatic actresses of her time, but here she is neither charismatic nor sexy.

Of course, the biggest flaw of Personal Property is that it’s not a pre-code film. It’s kind of baffling that anyone would think it was a good idea to make this story into a movie during enforcement, and it’s a little baffling that the Hays Office would even allow the story to be made. What results is one of the most ridiculously tame films that’s just huge film of untapped potential, and the whole thing just feels completely off.

Perhaps some of the film could have been saved had Taylor and Harlow had the chemistry to at least make this a decent love story. You’d think that two such beautiful people would have better chemistry, but there’s absolutely none there. It’s impossible to believe these two are even attracted to each other, much less falling in love with each other. It seems possible that they don’t even like each other. Personal Property doesn’t work as a sex romp, it doesn’t work as a romantic comedy. It doesn’t work at all.

By Katie Richardson