Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brassy Tacks and Jump the Tracks

Theodora Goes Wild (1936)
directed by Richard Boleslawski
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

No movie today would ever let a heroine like Irene Dunn's Theodora push the envelope so far. She declares her independence from the small-minded ways of Lynnfield, Connecticut, then finds that the object of her very public affection is scared to commit. An apology is expected to the biddies who raised her, but Theodora travels to New York instead in order to make a mess of things in the life of Melvyn Douglas's Michael, the man she loves. We expect some comeuppance at Theodora's expense, but she put up with enough when Michael first came to town. She piles embarrassment upon embarrassment, makes a mockery of male hierarchies and of men, and doesn't blink once.

That she does this for the right reasons is not lost on the people who respect her: her playboy uncle; the forward-thinking editor of the Lynnfield Bugle; even her aunts. They stick to Theodora and continue to encourage her. There is no scandal so unfair as the denial of two true hearts, and worries are for spinsters with cats. Not that I've told you half of it, or even the premise. There are dog tricks and dances, done-up apartments and downtown drunks.

Thomas Mitchell's Jed Waterbury (editor) should be better known than his Diz Moore (friend to Clarissa Saunders). Mr. Smith was a sap, but Jed is wise to the small-town ways of his readership, and noble enough to want more of the wide world, however tawdry it might seem, for his readership's kids. A man of the people, so in love with rabble-rousers, anarchists, and dreamers, that he hires a band on the day that Theodora returns to play her from the train like a queen. Which she is.