Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cash (1933)

Cash is an Alexander Korda-produced short film (62 minutes) packed with Robert Donat-y goodness. It follows the story of a wealthy man and his daughter (Edmund Gwen and Wendy Barrie) who are hurt by the financial crash. Robert Donat plays the technician sent to turn off their lights. He ends up going into business with them selling shares in dodgy real estate deal to build a swimming complex called "Eternal Spring" in London. At the time, the idea was meant as a joke, a clear sign that Gwen's character was a con man, and yet, there are places like this all over the United States now. I fully expect to see an "Eternal Spring" in the Wisconsin Dells. (And wouldn't it be awesome to have a water park with a 1930s London theme? I know I'd pony up the dough for a few shares!)

Zoltan Korda's direction is a bit off at times, especially when it comes to adding in music to the soundtrack, which is jarring in every instance, but he does seem to have a deft hand with comedy. The script is fast-paced (with such a short run-time, it would have to be) and funny. The sets are memorable, a sure sign that the other Korda brother, Vincent was probably involved. Gwen and Barrie live in an elaborate streamline art deco masterpiece of a house. This is probably the prettiest set I can think of, equal to Kay Francis' swank digs in Trouble in Paradise.

This film was made shortly after Donat completed work on The Private Life of Henry VIIIth. It was the first starring role for both Donat and Barrie, who had played Jane Seymour in Hank 8. As a Donat fan, it's a thrill to see one of his earliest films even if it's not a terribly impressive effort. It floats by pleasantly enough. Barrie and Donat are quite nice together and they alternate between arguing and making out in a way that is amusing and almost believable.

Cash was a low-budget "quota" movie. In the 1930s Britain was required to produce and exhibit a certain number of British-made films. Quota pictures were frequently greeted with groans by impatient audiences waiting for the American-made part of the program to begin. Yet the Kordas were a force to be reckoned with and I find their cast-off fluff just as interesting if not more so, than similar level films made by American studios.

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