Otto Kruger

Turn Back the Clock (1933)

Turn Back the Clock 1933

Joe Gimlet (Lee Tracy) is a middle-aged man who runs a store with his wife Mary (Mae Clarke). Times are tough and they’re barely eking out a living when one day, their old friend Ted Wright (Otto Kruger) comes into the shop and they agree to get together. Ted has been faring a bit better than Joe and Mary; he went on to become a very successful bank president and is married to Elvina (Peggy Shannon), another old friend of theirs. They agree to get together and spend an evening together.

Growing up, Ted was infatuated with Mary and Joe is still kicking himself for turning down a business proposition from Elvina’s father when he was younger that would have made him a millionaire. Despite everything he has, Ted admits to being jealous of everything Joe and Mary have and offers Joe the chance to get in on an investment. Joe really wants to take him up on the investment opportunity, but it would wipe out their savings and Mary doesn’t think it’s a good idea. She and Joe get into a big argument about it that night and Joe gets very drunk, leaves the house, and gets hit by a car.

Joe is taken to a hospital where he’s put under ether and dreams that he’s a young man once again. Now he has a chance to undo all the mistakes he made so many years ago. Not only does he take Elvina’s father up on that business offer, he marries her and uses his knowledge of the future to make some very wise investments and ends up being offered a very important consultant position with the government regarding World War I. Mary, on the other hand, married Ted and the two of them live a modest life running a shop together. But there’s the age-old question of whether or not money truly makes a person happier.

Movies about a person having a fantasy about either going back in time, into the future are hardly, or otherwise experiencing an alternate reality are hardly anything unique, but Turn Back the Clock somehow manages to not feel clichéd. I can’t quite put my finger on what prevents it from feeling trite, but it manages to pull it off. It may be because it does have a touch of sentimentality to it, but not in a heavy-handed way. It’s a slow build to Joe’s epiphany that maybe wealth and power isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be and never heads into being overly dramatic. The cast is great, it’s a particularly great Lee Tracy vehicle. It’s certainly interesting to see them try to make young Mae Clarke into a drab middle-aged woman. And hey, it’s even got a special guest appearance by the Three Stooges as an added bonus. All in all, I’d say it’s a movie that deserves to be a bit more well-known than it currently seems to be.

Cover Girl (1944)

While working as a dancer in a nightclub, Rusty Parker (Rita Hayworth) hears about a contest being run by Vanity magazine to find a new face for their big fiftieth anniversary issue.  She goes to audition for Cornelia Jackson (Eve Arden), who isn’t impressed by her, but she does catch the eye of publisher John Coudair (Otto Kruger).  Cordelia doesn’t know what he sees in her, but it turns out Rusty is a dead ringer for a woman he had been in love with forty years earlier named Maribelle Hicks. When he finds out that Rusty is Mirabelle’s granddaughter, she wins the magazine cover.

When her magazine cover hits the newsstands, Rusty becomes a local celebrity.  Her boyfriend Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), who also owns the nightclub she dances at, is glad to see Rusty’s dreams coming true, but he wishes she were becoming famous as a dancer instead of being just a pretty face.  He’s also afraid her newfound success will drive her away from him.  Thanks to Rusty, Danny’s nightclub suddenly becomes the hot place to be and one person who comes to see her is Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman), the owner of a theater on Broadway.  He wants to put her in a show, but she doesn’t want to leave Danny’s club.

Noel and Coudair won’t to take “no” for an answer and keep trying to get Rusty to come to Broadway, which continues to drive a wedge between Rusty and Danny.  Eventually, Danny decides the best thing he can do for Rusty is let her go.  She finally goes off to Broadway and becomes a big star while Danny and his best friend Genius (Phil Silvers) close up the nightclub and head off to entertain the troops.  Before too long, Noel proposes to Rusty and although she doesn’t love him, she reluctantly accepts since Danny is gone.  When Danny hears about her engagement, he decides to make one last attempt to win her back.

Cover Girl is the best musical MGM never made.  It’s got Gene Kelly, great Gershwin songs, nice bright Technicolor, and is just pure, exuberant fun.  This is one of those movies I can put on when I’m having a bad day and it will never fail to cheer me up.

Cover Girl came pretty early in Gene Kelly’s career and I think it’s one of his more underrated films.  I’ve always been a huge fan of the “Alter Ego” dance scene where Gene dances with himself.  It’s too bad this was the only movie Gene made with Rita Hayworth; I really would have liked to have seen them together again.  What’s really remarkable about Cover Girl is that even though Gene had been only been making movies for two years, he was given a lot of creative control over it.  Maybe that’s part of the reason why I have a tendency to forget it was made at Columbia, not MGM.

The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933)

While at a bar one night, boxing manager Edwin J. Bennett, AKA: Professor, (Walter Huston) sees sailor Steve Morgan (Max Baer) knock out a couple of drunks.  The Professor sees that Steve has the potential to be a great boxer and convinces Steve to let him train him.  While the two of them are jogging on a country road one day, another car rolls over into a ditch.  Steve goes to help and pulls singer Belle Mercer (Myrna Loy) out of the wreck.  He takes her to a nearby house and makes sure she’s okay.  To repay the favor, Belle agrees to go to one of Steve’s fights.

Steve is quite infatuated with Belle and is thrilled when she comes to see him, but he soon finds out that she’s the girlfriend of gambler Willie Ryan (Otto Kruger).  That doesn’t deter him from pursuing Belle, though.  He keeps on trying and eventually he wins her over and they get married.  News of their marriage comes as a shock to Willie, but he vows to kill Steve if he ever does anything to hurt Belle.

Belle is a very devoted wife and does everything she can to support Steve’s career, but he isn’t as dedicated to her.  As his career rises, his ego spirals out of control and he starts seeing other women.  She knows what’s going on and after catching him in a lie, she tells Steve that if he messes up again, she’s gone.  Steve promises to behave, but when he hits the road with a vaudeville act, the showgirls are just too tempting.  Belle stays true to her word and goes back to Willie and gets her job back singing in his nightclub.  Steve works his way up to a championship match, but without Belle’s support, he gets depressed and starts hitting the bottle.  On the night of the big fight, Belle goes to the match hoping to see Steve get knocked out.  But as the fight progresses, Belle realizes she still does love him.

The Prizefighter and the Lady was a pretty darn engaging film.  In regards to Myrna Loy’s career, I’m not sure why I haven’t really heard much about her work in this movie because I thought she was great in it.  She made a very sympathetic wife and her quip, “Mother said there’d be days like this,” as Belle is helped out of the car wreck is pure Myrna Loy.  I loved that so many real-life boxers like Max Baer and Primo Carnera appeared in it; the fight scenes were terrific.  My only complaint about this movie was the musical number.  Yes, there really is a musical number in this movie about a boxer.  It didn’t add much of anything to the story and it just slowed down the whole thing.  Other than that, though, it’s a great movie.