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Friday, November 14, 2014

'One Night at Susie's' DVD: When I Met Your Depression-Era Mother It Was Murder

One Night At Susie's (1930)
The 1930 shouldabeenaclassic noir film "One Night at Susie's" has everything that makes Warner Archive releases so special. It is an early talkie starring household name Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (a.k.a. the former Mr. Joan Crawford) and has a style that perfectly reflects dramas of its era. "Susie" having uber-prolific silent film director John Francis Dillon at the helm contributes more Archiveness to the film.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube and Archive, of an important (but not spoiler) scene from "Susie" provides a great look at the style of the film and the great chemistry between Fairbanks and his co-star.

The titular dame runs a not-so-respectable establishment that offers current and reformed not-so-wise tough guys all manner of support. She also is not afraid to use her influence with public officials to lay down the law when necessary.

Foster son Dick Rollins, whom Fairbanks plays with a great mix of charm and sincerity, is a truly legitimate press agent for a theater whom Susie successfully keeps away from the "life." This effort includes a threat of incurring the wrath of Susie regarding any attempt to corrupt her boy.

Susie quasi shows that mother knows best regarding expressing her disapproval when Dick brings home new best gal chorus girl Mary Martin, whom '20s darlings Billie Dove portrays nicely, to meet Mom. The primary concern of Susie is that chorus girls cannot be trusted and always lead to trouble.

Yes, Mary does declare "I love Dick." Yes, as well, that line elicits giggles from those of us who delight in having the sense of humor of a 12-year-old.

A series of melodramatic circumstances that lead to Dick voluntarily taking the fall for a murder that Susie commits leads the prediction of Susie coming true. The almost surreal scene in which the judge sentences Dick wonderfully seems like something out of "Citizen Kane."

The next round of drama relates to a highly resentful Susie emotionally supporting Mary in fulfillment of a promise to Dick. The predictable showdown regarding that is another memorable moment in the film.

For their part, Susie and Dick remain as close as ever during his tenure at Sing Sing. The support that he provides his beloved includes advancing her career arguably at the expense of his own reputation in his profession.

The nice (and unexpected) overall element that makes "Susie's" worth adding to your DVD collection is that Dillon and his primary cast do not overstate things in this era in which the related still-strong influences of live-stage productions and silent films often result in over-the-top performances.

The audience believes the tough-but-civilized Susie when she tells Dick before finding that his soon-to-be-introduced intended is a chorus girl that Susie can be a lady. Dick himself seems like a nice ordinary guy, rather than either a bon vivant or an anti-social intellect. For her part, Mary speaks and dresses just fine to the extent that she lacks any hint of bimboness.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Susie" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.