Right off the bat, I want to state that I was warned about Flat—Chon Noriega, the distinguished professor of cinema and media studies at UCLA who’s serving as Bobby Osbo’s sidekick during TCM’s Latino Images in Film festival this month, called the film a “car wreck” and explained that it’s one of those movies that you want to turn away from but can’t. I glanced at the cast list, and though I was concerned that such distinguished Hispanic actors like Tracy (Irishman from Chicago), Garfield (Jewish kid from the Lower East Side), Hedy Lamarr (Austrian girl), Frank Morgan, Sheldon Leonard, Allen Jenkins and John Qualen might not be able to pass as the inhabitants of a small fishing village in Southern California, I figured it couldn’t be that painful.
Oh, but was I ever wrong, faithful followers of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. As previously stated, I am a huge fan of John Garfield and have seen many of his films too many times to mention—but I don’t think there’s enough tequila in
To be brutally honest, I’m not sure which actor in this film is the worst; Morgan is positively appalling (I can’t believe he snagged an Oscar nom for this)—not because he’s not convincing (he isn’t) but because he’s so gooey and cloying as a devoted dog lover. But Leonard, Jenkins and Qualen are probably worse; the first two sound as if they just finished an episode of radio’s The Damon Runyon Theater and I was surprised that Qualen didn’t resort to a few “yumpin’ yiminys’ (although the censor probably saw to that, since it might have been pronounced ‘humpin’ himiny”).
Flat, according to Hal Erickson at AllMovie.com, “is not so much a movie as a series of warm-hearted anecdotes, all linked to a small California fishing village populated by poor but happy immigrants.” He mentions the “seemingly improvised songfest” between Tracy and Garfield (Ay, Ay, Paisano!) as one of the film’s highlights—which I will readily acquiesce is a great moment. But apart from the loveliness of Lamarr and a good turn by Akim Tamiroff—who, though Russian, comes closest to pulling off the Latino masquerade—I’m hard-pressed to see how Leonard Maltin gave Flat three stars in his indispensable Classic Movie Guide. (I just hope Len’s that generous to his employees come Christmas time.)
Laura at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings is taking a
Hudson is a B-film that wouldn’t have any difficulty passing itself off as a A, chiefly because Julie’s co-stars are Ann Sheridan (as his fiancée) and Pat O’Brien (as the warden of Sing Sing, where Garfield is doing a five-to-thirty-year stretch) in this tale of tough guy Tommy Gordon (Garfield) finally being nabbed by the long arm of the law. At seventy-seven minutes in length, it’s short and sweet: Julie tries to buck the prison system but finds himself no match for the tried-and-true methods of kind-but-firm O’Brien; Garfield’s refusal to go along with inmate Burgess Meredith on a bust-out (it takes place on a Saturday, which is Julie’s “hard luck” day) convinces Pat that Julie has reformed; he allows the inmate leave to visit Sheridan when she’s laid up after a car accident but he meets up with the joker (Jerome Cowan) responsible for Annie’s condition and during a display of fisticuffs, Sheridan shoots Cowan to save Julie.
Hudson is a remake of a 1932 Warner film entitled 20,000 Years in Sing Sing—based on the best-selling book by Warden Lewis E. Lawes, and starring Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis (in their only onscreen teaming) in the Garfield and Sheridan roles; I prefer Hudson largely due to the Garfield factor but both movies are well worth a look-see. Hudson has most of the Warner stock players on parade here: Henry O’Neill, John Litel, Margot Stevenson, Willard Robertson, etc.; Guinn “Big Boy” Williams is both funny and touching as a Death Row inmate who realizes he won’t have enough time to master the harmonica and Barbara Pepper (well before her Doris Ziffel days) is the cute blonde seated on the piano (that’s right, on the piano) in the apartment belonging to Garfield’s chum (Billy Wayne). The print of