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Rendezvous

Gasser

Rendezvous (1935)

It seems no matter what role he plays, William Powell has a hard time avoiding crime-solving. He played a detective in a variety of movies and film series and apparently just had the cool, suited sleuth thing pegged. In Rendezvous, Powell’s character is a want-to-be front-line soldier who instead is ordered to work in code cracking. Although this sounds like a miserable desk job to the character, it will nevertheless have Powell collecting evidence in the field, just not the field he wanted to be on.

Two days before boarding a train from England to France to fight in WWII, Powell’s Lt. Gordon meets the lovely Joel Carter (Rosalind Russell) and tricks her into kissing him goodbye. Joel has an uncle in the cryptology sect of the military, but Gordon does not know that when he reveals that he wrote a very popular code-cracking book under a pseudonym and has been sought by the military ever since. Just as he is about to board the train, he is given orders to report to this Assistant Secretary of War John Carter (Samuel S. Hinds).

Gordon is miserable spending his days and nights trying to solve complex codes intercepted from the Germans and knows Joel is the one who put him there. Once he breaks a code, however, he is promoted to a fancier desk. By this point, Major Brennan (Lionel Atwill) has been murdered by his mistress (a spy), and Gordon casually interrogates this Olivia, played by Binnie Barnes. His work leads him to have dinner with the young woman, making Joel frivolously jealous. During his dinner, another American soldier and Joel’s ex-beau, Col. Nieterstein (Cesar Romero), is “given up” by the gang of spies to which Olivia belongs.

Gordon will eventually nail all the spies to the wall and save a U.S. battleship from enemy destruction, but not before Joel is kidnapped and he fends off flying bullets. He might also get a chance to finally go the battlefield, but not if his love interest can help it.

Rendezvous was an amusing flick that at least diversified Powell’s detective character from others he has played. He naturally, however, plays the same man we always see in these movies: too cool to admit he loves the woman, too cool to really let that villainous lady get the best of him, and too cool to let “being nabbed” by the enemy take him off guard.

Russell, however, brings all sorts of zany fun to the story. She makes an utter fool of herself once she has fallen for Powell’s character, but it is always fun to see her comedic side. This was her first star billing in a film in a part that was originally intended for Powell’s often partner Myrna Loy. The ending of the film was also tinkered with during production to come up with a satisfying end, and Russell’s great work led to one that more prominently featured her part. I cannot imagine Loy in this role as her performance could not have been as goofy as Russell’s. It was certainly a great cast in the end.

Source: TCM.com

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Love Before Breakfast

Ring a Ding Ding

Love Before Breakfast (1936)

     I’ve been working my way through a Netflixed Carole Lombard box set and so have felt myself moving through a series of lackluster flicks featuring the female love of my life. At last, however, I have landed on one that left me sighing at how beautiful and entertaining this dame was. Love Before Breakfast (which might have the greatest movie poster every designed), is a story that has nothing to do with breakfast, but everything to do with resisting love.

     We first meet Scott Miller (Preston Foster) who in his large office makes multiple requests of his secretary to book a Kay Colby for either lunch or dinner, but is repeatedly told the girl is booked with a Mr. Bill Wadsworth (Cesar Romero). Bill works for Amalgamated Oil, which Scott’s company has just purchased. Looking to get this fiancée of the girl he adores out of the picture, Scott sends him to a new site in Japan. This all happens within the first few minutes of the film so we can quickly be thrown into the thrust of the plot: Scott and Kay’s nonexistent romance.

     Saying farewell to her beau at the dock, Kay is overwhelmed with tears (she clearly does not know Bill is cheating on her). Scott takes her for coffee, but upon learning the lengths to which this man has gone to get rid of the fiancée, she turns on her heel and takes off for a bar. Scott, perhaps the most persistent man in film, follows Kay and while arguing with some younger men hitting on Kay, starts a brawl. The bar owner extinguishes the lights and Kay takes a right hook in the eye from Scott (thus the poster).

     Kay continues to resist Scott (whom everyone seems to call by his full name) even though her mother, who lives with her as a seemingly subordinate member of the household, has been rooting for him for some time. Upon writing to Bill about why he was sent to Japan, Kay learns the man is more concerned with his career than their relationship, but still she is not swayed by Scott. Eventually, Kay, whom we know to be truly in love with the male protagonist, tells the man she will marry him for his money (and he presents her with three engagement rings), but is too stubborn to divulge any love. An adorable moment occurs when Scott demands they seal the arrangement with a kiss. Lombard stretches her mouth and nose apart in a look of tolerance against what she pretends to be an unpleasant act.

     Getting some advice from an older bachelor working at his company, Scott decides to bring Bill back to the states and release Kay from the engagement. The plan is to get her to admit she does love him and no longer wants her ex, but Kay is a tough nut to crack and fights the whole ordeal tooth and nail until the last second.

     I’m not sure what was different about Lombard in Love Before Breakfast, but I found her absolutely stunning. Her makeup was very flattering and the wardrobe by Travis Bantonwas to die for. I regret that the long, silky, slinky styles of the 1930s are one vintage look that seems dead set on staying out of vogue and therefore unattainable. Whenever I dream of such gowns, I always think of Lombard. The independent wealth of Kay’s family that allows such a lavish look is undisclosed as the plot rushes into the most important aspects of the story, but it does not really matter. Suffice it to say, no actual marriage for money motivations in this film.

     I would not say Lombard is at her funniest in Love Before Breakfast, but she brings plenty of humor to the role. She was great at playing strong, stubborn women who refuse to be pushed around by men. And although she argues right through the marriage ceremony in this flick, we know the romantic bond between the two parties is strong enough to melt away the pride.

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