Friday, May 18, 2012

Film of the Week - Come and Get It (1936)

I have been thrilled with May's TCM Star of the Month, Joel McCrea.  His voice was wonderful, and I definitely enjoy his acting.  Frankly, I've been spoiled watching such gems as Foreign Correspondent, which I've avoided because I always thought it would be too political.  Instead I found it to be an intense, yet wonderful wartime thriller  Hitchcock can do no wrong!

Joel McCrea, Edward Arnold, and Frances Farmer

Come and Get It (1936) had all the ingredients for a wonderful film:  a great Edna Ferber story, Joel McCrea and Edward Arnold, and the magnificent director Howard Hawks.

Walter Brennan - the scene stealer

The film was nominated for two Oscars: Walter Brennan for Best Supporting Actor and Edward Curtis for Film Editing.  Brennan earned the only Oscar for this film.

"Do you like my matted hair and poor acting?"

The film was supposed to be about how the robber barons destroyed the country.  Instead it turned out to be a love triangle between a married father (Arnold) and his son (McCrea) for the attentions of the daughter of a singer Edward Arnold's character loved as a youth but did not marry because she had no money.

Finally, a good costume

The plot was terrible.  I had a very difficult time trying to find sympathy for any of the characters.  Walter Brennan's character Swan, who definitely deserved his Oscar.

I'd be upset if I was in this film, too

Several problems plagued the film including Howard Hawks and producer Sam Goldwyn not agreeing on the actors to star in the film, Sam Goldwyn hating the rough cut of the film and hiring director William Wyler to replace Hawks and basically redo the film, the the acting loved by some and panned by others.

Pretty, but that's about it

The main issue I had from the film was the wretched acting of Frances Farmer.  I found her quite unconvincing and her voice annoying.  She played two roles in this film, the original singer (Lotta Morgan) who caught the eye of Arnold's character as a youth, and the singer's daughter (Lotta Bostrom) whom Arnold and McCrea both love.  Everything I have read says Farmer was such a fantastic actress, but I was stunned by the very poor acting I saw.  Perhaps my expectations were way too high.  Farmer's acting as Morgan was painful - bad costume; bad acting.  As Lotta Bostrom, she was a bit better, but the character was poorly created by Farmer and the script writers.  Perhaps someone knows a film Frances made with a stunning performance.  Based solely on this film I felt Frances Farmer's acting talent was incredibly overrated.

Frances and her mom Lillian

I wanted to like Frances Farmer's performance so badly.  I have been intrigued by her story ever since I saw Frances (1982) on TCM late one night last summer.  It was such a disturbing and heartbreaking tale, that I set about investigating her.  Sad the say, the film greatly fictionalized her life to the point that it is almost unrecognizable. Jessica Lange gave one of the best performances I've seen in modern films.  I'm not generally a fan of Lange, but her performance blew me away.  To find out what really happened in Farmer's life, I would read Jeffrey Kauffman's wonderful website Frances Farmer Shedding Light on Shadowland.

You'd have to pay me a LOT of money to Come and Get It

So, here's the short review: misplaced plot, poorly acted feminine lead, and disjointed.  The only saving grace is Walter Brennan.  Watch Brennan and fast forward through the rest - unless you feel like pitying the other poor fools in this mess.

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