Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

STINGAREE


STINGAREE (1934). Director: William Wellman.

"You'll be just as safe here -- as you want to be."

Bizarre but likable comedy-drama-musical-what-the hell? with Irene Dunne as Hilda Bouverie, who desperately wants a career as a singer, and Richard Dix as "Stingaree," a notorious 1874 Australian bandit who wants to make it happen for her -- even if at gunpoint. Unintentional hilarity ensues when Dunne begins singing Lucia di Lammermoor [off-screen] at all the great opera houses -- Dunne has a lovely, perhaps even an operetta-type voice, but Renata Tebaldi she ain't! However, she's as charming as ever in this film. What can one say about Richard Dix except that he's devoid of looks and insouciance and is more at home in those Whistler movies. The movie needed a Tyrone Power type and that Dix is not, although he's at least professional. As others have noted, nobody wants to see the delightful Mary Boland as a mean-spirited bitch, which she is in this film. When she sings [a dubbed voice that is not operatic-great but hardly terrible] another character says: "Being shot right now would be a blessed relief!" Jealous of Hilda's youth and talent, Boland is the type of singer who blames the accompanist for her inadequacies. There are many amusing moments in the film, an interesting sequence when Hilda hears off-stage gunshots [has her beloved been shot?] at a concert, and the songs, especially "Tonight is Mine," are lovely. So fast-paced that it doesn't give you much time to ponder the absurdity of it all. Una O'Connor is fun as ever as a maid-companion.

Verdict: Stupid but cute. ***.

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