Classic Movies

Absolutely Sweet Marie

garter

Fickle Gertie Darling (Marie Prevost) is returning from a French vacay and, as a title card tells us, “wherever she went she brought back something.”  That “something” is a fiancé, Algernon “Algy” Brooks (Franklin Pangborn), who is completely clueless about a hint of scandal in Gertie’s past.  His best bud, lawyer Ken Walrick (Charles Ray), was once engaged to Algy’s girl…and as a token of his devotion, presented her a jeweled bracelet with his picture attached.  However, what Ken bought Gertie was not a bit of arm bling—it was a garter, to which she added a photograph of herself.  (The revelation that Ken can’t tell the difference between a bracelet and a garter doesn’t speak well of his legal acumen, sad to report.) 

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Ken Walrick (Charles Ray) takes butler Jenkins (William Orlamond) into his confidence in Getting Gertie’s Garter (1927). (Many of Orlamond’s comical facial expressions are the highlight of the film.)

Gertie is anxious to return the garter to her ex before Algy learns of its existence…which should work out well for Ken, because he’s equally anxious to retrieve the item before his fiancée finds out.  That lucky girl is Theodora “Teddy” Desmond (Sally Rand), who with her aunt (Lila Leslie) is invited to a weekend party hosted by another pal of Ken and Algy’s, confirmed bachelor Barry Scott (Dell Henderson).  Before the weekend is over, there’ll be slamming doors, misunderstandings, and both men and women losing their clothing in Getting Gertie’s Garter (1927), a motion picture comedy based on the 1921 stage farce by Wilson Collison and Avery Hopwood. 
 
dvdThe film version of Getting Gertie’s Garter was released by Producers Distributors Corporation and starred Marie Prevost as the gal with the jeweled brace; Prevost began her cinematic resume as a “Bathing Beauty” at the Mack Sennett Studios before graduating to leading roles and then moving to Universal in 1921 to headline in such films as A Parisian Scandal (1921) and The Midnight Flapper (1922).  Marie would skyrocket to fame as the leading lady in three films directed by the legendary Ernst Lubitsch: The Marriage Circle (1924; I have the Flicker Alley MOD DVD), Three Women (1924) and Kiss Me Again (1925).  Outside of CircleThe Racket (1928), and The Godless Girl (1929), most of my exposure to Ms. Prevost has been limited to her appearances in sound films (notably The Sin of Madelon Claudet [1931] and Three Wise Girls [1932]) so I was most curious to check out what many consider to be the peak period of her career…and since Alpha Video recently released Garter to DVD in the latter part of October, Alpha’s Brian Krey was kind enough to maneuver a screener in my direction. 

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Marie Prevost

The liner notes on the back of Garter acknowledge that Prevost had developed a bit of a weight problem by the time the movie comedy went before the cameras (though I’ve read other sources that state this happened much later), “explaining her decidedly curvier figure.”  Bah and feh!  I think curvy Marie is a perfect doll onscreen and delightful as Gertie; she gets an opportunity to be both flirtatious and participate in some fun physical comedy, including a hilarious trip down a hay chute and a drenching in a tub filled with water.  I enjoyed Prevost so much in this film (she’s undeniably a babe) that I’m going to have to hunt for another of her comedies, Blonde for a Night (1928), that I have stashed around the stacks of the dusty Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives.  

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Charles Ray

Marie’s leading man is Charles Ray, an actor who achieved great fame playing “country bumpkins” in features in the teens and twenties…but saw his fortunes fall after he invested his money in a costume drama entitled The Courtship of Myles Standish (1923) that went belly up at the box office.  I’m less familiar with Ray’s oeuvre than I am Prevost’s (I’ve seen The Coward [1915] and The Busher [1919]) and while his movie stardom was behind him by the time he appeared in Garter he’s still a charmer, demonstrating a light farcical touch and a talent for physical comedy. 
 
A lot of the humor in Garter leans on the witty dialogue in the film’s title cards (Leslie Mason wrote the titles, with Anthony Coldeway on continuity and most of the adaptation credited to F. McGrew Willis) so whatever physical comedy is in film is kept at a minimum.  The movie does benefit from the presence of some supporting players who went on to bigger and better comedic things, including silver screen favorite Franklin Pangborn (he worked with Marie in several of her comedies, including The Girl in the Pullman [1927], Rush Hour [1928], and Blonde), Sennett/Roach veteran Dell Henderson, and Harry Myers—immortalized as the drunk who befriends Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp in City Lights (1931).  (Myers participates in a great running gag where his wife [Fritzi Ridgeway] keeps catching him in the company of Prevost’s Gertie…even though it’s all perfectly innocent.)  The actress portraying “Teddy” is Sally Rand, who’d appear in a few more films in the silent era (and a handful of talkies later) before going on to her greater fame as an exotic burlesque dancer who had quite a few fans.  (No, I am not going to apologize for that one.) 

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Harry Myers, Dell Henderson, and Franklin Pangborn in a screen grab from Getting Gertie’s Garter.

The Collison-Hopwood play was later adapted for a 1933 British film, Night of the Garter, and then revived for a third and final time under its original title in 1945 as a vehicle featuring Dennis O’Keefe and Marie “The Body” McDonald.  (I have not seen either film…particularly since the latter one stars O’Keefe.)  The 1927 original is a lot of fun and affirms that Marie Prevost was a tremendous talent…someone most worthy of rediscovery beyond that infamous Nick Lowe song.

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One thought on “Absolutely Sweet Marie

  1. Oh oh…Someone’s poaching on Stacia’s turf. I smell a rumble…!

    (I knew there was a Sally Rand who appeared in silent films, but I’m surprised to learn it’s the same Sally of fan dance fame. Her joints must’ve really been creaking by the time she strut her stuff for the Mercury astronauts.)

    Liked by 1 person

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