Sunday, June 11, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Slightly Dangerous (1943) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS (1943), a comedy-drama starring Lana Turner, is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Thanks to the Archive I've been enjoying Lana Turner '40s films recently; SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS follows watching WEEK-END AT THE WALDORF (1945) and KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY (1945). SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS is the most lightweight of the trio, but it's a fun watch.

Lana plays Peggy Evans, who's bored with her job at a small-town drugstore ice cream counter. As the movie opens, she receives an award for being on time to work for 1000 days straight, and she also proves to dubious customers that she can make a banana split blindfolded.

That last bit leads to her being fired by the brand-new store manager, Bob Stuart (Robert Young), but when Peggy decides to leave town for a new life and her farewell message is interpreted as a suicide note, Bob is fired for having caused the young woman to take such a desperate measure.

Bob wants to prove Peggy's alive so he can reclaim his job. He sets out to find Peggy, who has gone to the big city and had a complete makeover, changing from the dark-haired Lana Turner look of the late '30s to her glam blonde style of the '40s.

An accident leads Peggy to claim to be an amnesia victim; she's in financial straits, and the company which caused the accident offers support until she gets her memory back. Needing a better long-term financial plan, she poses as the long-lost daughter of wealthy Cornelius Burden (Walter Brennan), but then Bob shows up...

It's a fairly intricate plot, if still a tad overlong at 94 minutes, but all in all it's a pleasant film. Lana's on screen for most of the movie, and she's both lovely and an underrated acting talent. She even gets to show off a bit of her MGM dance training in a charming roadhouse scene with Young. (I want to go to an all-night roadhouse like that one...it's gorgeous!) In the wrong hands her schemer would be unlikable, but in Lana's hands Peggy still has a baby-faced innocence, as well as genuine caring for her new "father" and grandmother (Dame May Whitty).

In her fine, photo-filled book on her mother Lana, Cheryl Crane relates that the scene where Lana makes a banana split blindfolded was a nightmare to film, as her mother really couldn't see anything and there were technical difficulties such as the lights continually melting the ice cream. As Cheryl notes, you'd never know how complicated the filming was from the scene in the finished film! She also mentions the tidbit that her mother wore some of her own jewelry in the movie.

Brennan is particularly moving as the heartbroken father daring to hope that his long-lost baby girl has been found at last. Also of particular note is Ward Bond, stealing scenes in a near-wordless performance as Brennan's security man.

A big part of the fun of this movie is watching the parade of faces. Alan Mowbray is a stitch as a man who buys Young drinks in a nightclub, and that's James Warren (WANDERER OF THE WASTELAND) dancing with Lana at a party. Bobby Blake torments Young in an early sequence, and Pamela Blake is Lana's fellow ice cream scooper. A young Millard Mitchell plays an assistant to Eugene Pallette. Also spotted: Norma Varden, Frances Rafferty, Ray Collins, Florence Bates, Frank Faylen, Emory Parnell, Walter Sande, and Almira Sessions, to name just a few.

With the recent passing of Roger Moore, it's a good time to remind film fans that there was another actor named Roger Moore. He was the older brother of Robert Young, and he spent his entire career in bit roles -- over 230 of them! A great many of his appearances, like SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS, were in MGM films, at the studio where his brother spent a number of years under contract. Moore appeared as clerks, cops, waiters, party guests and the like; in SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS he's a store floorwalker.

SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS was directed by Wesley Ruggles (brother of Charlie) and filmed in black and white by Harold Rosson. By coincidence I watched this on Wesley Ruggles' birthday. He was born June 11, 1889.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good-looking print. The DVD includes the trailer.

Coming in the near future, we move on to Lana Turner in the '50s with reviews of the Warner Archive releases A LIFE OF HER OWN (1950) and DIANE (1956).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

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