Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Up the River

Last night I saw that Netflix is currently streaming the 1957 film Teacher's Pet. By far not the finest Clark Gable film in his repertoire, but it's better to have one Gable movie than none. I can't help but say again how disappointing the selection of classic films is on Netflix.

Anyways, it awakened my thirst for more classic movies, so here I am today at work scouring YouTube for pre-code films in the public domain. I stumbled upon a small collection of ones starring Spencer Tracy. He's not the King of Hollywood, but he's another one of my favorites.

I decided to watch Up the River. Tracy plays a convict who befriends another convict, played by Humphrey Bogart. This was the first credited feature film for both actors, so it's worth watching if only to see how their legacies began. I've never been a huge fan of Bogart, but he's almost unrecognizable in this film. Both actors are obviously very young and trim, but his character isn't really like the ones that made him famous. He's lovesick and mellow- not like the grizzled gangsters he played for much of his career.

I also just want to make a note of the treatment of gender in this film- or rather in this time period. When a wealthy benefactor woman takes her two acquaintances on a tour of the men's prison, they ask her if she's frightened and she replies that of course she isn't. The men are "just like children" to her, and she makes polite conversation with them as they pass by. She sees them as naughty little boys who got into trouble because they are boys, and therefore they cannot help but be seduced by sinful temptations such as stealing and gambling. However, when she enters the women's prison, she looks as though she's spotted a cockroach in her home. She says in a disgusted tone: And these, are the women" before leading her acquaintances away. It's easy for her to understand how the men end up in jail, because they're men after all, but a woman who succumbs to any kind of unseemly temptation is barely fit to be called a woman.

It really makes me think about the old saying "Well, boys will be boys" and how we use it in our culture to explain differences in our expectations of genders.

Nothing really remarkable in terms of story line here, but it's always fun to see the infancy of talkie film. It's also worth noting that this was directed by the celebrated John Ford- The Great American Director.

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