Friday, April 17, 2015

Cain and Mabel

Cain and Mabel; romantic comedy, USA, 1936; D: Lloyd Bacon, S: Marion Davies, Clark Gable, Allen Jenkins

Due to his fault, waitress Mabel gets fired from a restaurant, so reporter Reilly decides to find her a new job. An impostor presents himself as producer Sherman and offers Mabel a place in a Broadway show. The real Sherman shows up, but hires Mabel anyway. She cannot stand a boxer, Cain, but the management decides to place the news in the media that they are a love couple for publicity. The audience is hooked, and the annoyed Mabel and Cain are thus stuck pretending to love each other. However, they indeed fall in love.

Lloyd Bacon's romantic comedy "Cain and Mabel" is today a rather obscure title in the careers of Clark Gable and Marion Davies, yet it still has some irresistible charm that channels some best moments of the golden age of Hollywood. The basic premise in which a boxer and a dancer cannot stand each other, but grudgingly have to pretend to be in love for the media, is really sweet and gives an ironic jab at tabloid sensationalism, but the best parts are some incredible, inspired and deliciously snappy dialogue by writer Laird Doyle in the first half, some of which even rival Wilder's calibre of dialogue invention ("Your dance will make the swan lake look like a cooked goose!"; "If you ever lose that voice, you'll end up as a ventriloquist dummies"; "Just a minute! I don't care if you're Jake Sherman or the four Marx brothers, you cannot get away with calling me a chisler!"; the comment about the low audience interest, and how "the man in the box office played solitaire as to not be lonely"). The three long musical-dance sequences are tiresome and stiff, which makes for an unnecessary addition to the film, though luckily they are not frequent. Gable and Davies are very good in the leads, and some of their arguments have chemistry, yet their characters are not deeper developed, and it is unclear how they suddenly switch from anger to love out of the blue, just because Cain fancies her cooking in the kitchen. The resolution is a tad too simplistic, as if something is missing in the storyline, but overall this is a very fun and energetic film.


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