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With such fluid epics as "The Iron Horse" (1924), "Lightnin'" (1925),
"Hangman's House" and "Four Sons" (both 1928) in his resume, it is
surprising that Fox would encumber Ford with a dialogue director over and
over, but Fox did. In '29's "The Black Watch" it was Lumsden Hare. Andrew
Bennison is credited with the stage direction of "Men Without Women"
released January 1930. Judging from the result Bennison achieved in "Born
Reckless" (released in May 1930), I'm astonished anyone would have given
a second chance.
The photoplay opens with a traveling camera shot of a parade. The camera
prowls into a jewelry store where a heist is in progress. Outside, the
"get wise" when a stolen truck is discovered. An exiting shootout and
ensues, with our hero, Louis Berretti, gaining refuge at his parents'
apartment. Then Bennison's stuff takes over. Well, molasses in Anchorage
moves better and the pace of the film congeals. Berretti faces justice
(eventually) and is "sentenced" to join the war effort overseas. John Ford
stages some excellent sequences here, with Berretti's approbatory service
delivering him home a hero. He opens a nightclub which, unfortunately,
Berretti rubbing elbows with his old mob and allows plenty scenes filled
with Bennison-helmed hubris. The dialogue is not only awkward with
head-shaking gaps, but has characters with names like Big Shot putting
people "on the spot" [murdered].
Audiences of 1930 could not fast forward but you can and should. Edmund
Lowe's performance is nothing like the smooth "Chandu" of a year later and
probably should be skipped over to view Ford's impressive set pieces. The
swamp at the picture's conclusion cribs Fox's "Sunrise" but remains
impressive for an early talkie. I gave it a 7 for Ford's contributions. On
the whole, though, this is the kind of film that gave early TV viewers a
taste for early talkies. Viewers beware.
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