Swingtime in the Movies – 1938

Swingtime

My Review

—Short, Harmless Fun— 

Bogie Film Fix:

.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Crane Wilbur

The Lowdown

A film director (Fritz Feld) finds the replacement for his leading lady in a new Western after visiting the studio commissary and stumbling across a waitress (Kathryn Kane) who’s perfect for the role.

What I Thought

Any longer than twenty minutes, and this short would have probably gotten old, but as it is, it’s a lot of fun and a good vehicle for two very talented comedic actors, Fritz Feld and Charley Foy.

A story as old as Hollywood itself, Kathryn Kane is plucked from obscurity and made into a star in a fictional Western film helmed by the very nervous Mr. Nitvitch.  I’m a little shocked that this one wasn’t made into a full length feature since it’s written and directed as well as any other clichéd old Hollywood film that I’ve seen.

Director/Writer Wilbur turns out to have quite a notorious filmography behind his name (House of Wax anyone?), and this was the second short that he wrote and directed with Bogart – the other being I am an American which will be reviewed on this site soon.  Director Wilbur also wrote the Bogart/’Dead End’ Kids collaboration, Crime School, which probably explains their very brief cameo in this film.

In fact, all of the celebrity cameos are brief.  George Brent, the Lane sisters, Pat O’Brien, and Bogart and the ‘Dead End’ Kids all flash by the screen in a heartbeat during the film studio commissary scene and none of them have any lines, so don’t expect the star power to add much to this film.

The real treat is watching Fritz Feld and Charley Foy interact while making their musical Western. The two men have great chemistry, and this is the second or third time that I’ve seen Foy pop up in a Bogart film.  After I re-watch The Wagon’s Roll at Night, I’m going to have to add him to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of this blog as he did a really great job here and he has such a fun and unique look about him.

The Bogart Factor

He’s only on the screen for a few seconds, keeping a watchful eye over the ‘Dead End’ Kids while they eat lunch.  Bogart’s tiny and wary interaction with the kids here looks to back up the claim that he soured a bit on working with them after they threw fire crackers into his dressing room on set one afternoon.

If you’re looking for a Bogart fix, this film ain’t it.

The Cast

Fritz Feld plays the film director, Mr. Nitvitch.  His timing is great, the accent is great (real or exaggerated), and this short lives or dies based on his involvement in any given scene.

Charley Foy plays Feld’s right hand man on the movie set, Sammy.  Foy is great, and just the little bit of research that I’ve done on him is enough to tell me that this guy has to go into ‘The Usual Suspects’ as one of those actors that probably never got the recognition he deserved.  He’s a super solid, very funny side man here alongside of Feld – especially the scene where he and Feld teach Kathryn Kane and John Carroll how to kiss on screen!

Kathryn Kane plays Joan Mason, the young waitress who’s discovered on the job and thrust into the limelight.  It’s a pretty two-dimensional role for Kane, but she’s charming enough.

John Carroll plays actor Rick Arden, the star of Feld’s musical Western.  Again, he doesn’t really have much to do except stand there and look good in a hat, so he fills the role just fine.

Classic Bogie Moment

Um . . . well.  Here’s the entirety of his scene. 

Bogart Dead End Swingtime

The Bottom Line

If you like musicals, want a couple laughs, and have twenty minutes to spare, there are certainly worse ways to do it than by watching this short film.

Pat O’Brien

San Quentin O'Brien

Name: William Joseph Patrick O’Brien

Birthdate: November 11, 1899

Number of Films Pat O’Brien Made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

The Lowdown

It took me four films to warm up to Pat O’Brien, but that’s largely due to the fact that I started with his two worst Bogart collaborations (China Clipper and San Quentin) and it took a while to get their bad tastes out of my mouth. The good news is that he’s wonderful in The Great O’Malley, and even better in Angels with Dirty Faces, so if you only know O’Brien from his portrayal of Knute Rockne, as I did initially, there’s plenty more to love about him.

Lifelong friends with other Bogie Film Blog favorites James Cagney, Allen Jenkins, and Frank McHugh, it’s only fitting that O’Brien finds his way into the ‘The Usual Suspects,’ and I’m excited to dive a little deeper into the rest of his filmography down the road.

The Filmography

China Clipper – 1936

China Clipper OBrien

O’Brien plays Dave Logan, a veteran war pilot who opens his own oceanic shipping company and then proceeds to abuse his friends and family in order to see his dreams come true. Unfortunately, Logan seems to hit the peak of his character arc mid film and then flounders for the next forty minutes. After alienating his coworkers, working his father to death, and ruining his marriage, Logan learns his lesson and makes his apologies . . . only to continue down the same reckless path and make sure that all of his dreams still come true . . . okay. O’Brien is not to blame for the audience turning on Logan nearly as much as the scriptwriters are, but he just doesn’t have much luck garnering sympathy as the film’s main protagonist when we have to watch him act like a jerk, refuse to change, and still come out on top. Not a great starter film if you want to see a good O’Brien/Bogart collaboration. You can read my original write up here.

The Great O’Malley – 1937

Great OMalley OBrien

O’Brien plays the by-the-book cop, Officer James Aloysius O’Malley – a name almost as lengthy and Irish as the one he was born with! O’Malley is a man that loves to follow the rules and write tickets for everyone else who doesn’t. While he doesn’t have a ton of screen time with Bogart, it’s O’Brien that really pushes this by-the-numbers film from watchable to enjoyable. His OCD-like behavior not only makes for a number of funny moments in the movie, but it also leads to a couple of nice dramatic scenes with Bogart and his family. His final confrontation with Bogart is one of the film’s best tension-filled scenes. You can read my original write up here.

San Quentin – 1937

San Quentin 2 OBrien

O’Brien plays Captain Jameson, the new prison warden at San Quentin Prison, inheriting a riotous group of ne’er-do-well inmates – including a belligerent Bogart. O’Brien only has a one-note character to work with here, and any moments for him to display some real internal conflict (whether or not to date Ann Sheridan, how to handle an insubordinate Barton MacLane, etc.) are downplayed in favor of showing his ease and confidence as the Captain of the yard who has a plan that can solve every problem. I think it would have lent a little more weight to the film if the script had allowed him just a bit of vulnerability. For goodness sakes, he even downplays being shot at the end as if it’s a mere inconvenience! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Angels with Dirty Faces – 1938

Angels with Dirty Faces OBrien

Walking that last mile with Cagney

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O’Brien plays Father Jerry Connolly, James Cagney’s childhood friend and former fellow hoodlum. I was very impressed with O’Brien’s work in this one, as Father Jerry is certainly his most layered and well-rounded character out of all the O’Brien/Bogart collaborations. O’Brien made me believe that he was a man with a darker past, and I admit that I was caught completely off guard when he slugged a patron at a bar for giving him a hard time. It was a realistic moment of fury that helped show the fine balance O’Brien was taking to toe the line between ex-criminal and clergyman. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Swingtime in the Movies – 1938

Pat OBrien SwingtimeIt’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from O’Brien, appearing very briefly as himself in the film studio commissary amidst a whole lineup of film stars who are having lunch.  Bogart appears seconds later with The ‘Dead End’ Kids in a brief cameo as well, but more than likely they weren’t even in the same room at the same time.  Not really worth a watch if you’re looking for a good fix from either man.  You can read my original write up on Swingtime in the Movies here.