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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

'Five and Ten' DVD: Marion Davies Hits Audiences Where it Hearsts

Five And Ten (1931)
Warner Archive once again demonstrates that its collection of classic rarities is seemingly infinite in releasing the 1931 Marion Davies melodrama "Five and Ten" on DVD.

Davies both produces and stars in this one that verifies the portrayal of her in "Citizen Kane" as a pretty face with limited talent; she simply does not connect with the audience or evoke the sympathy that her character should trigger.

The first thing to mention regarding the following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a couple of early scenes from "Five" is that the audio and video quality of the DVD is much better than the one here. The second thing to mention is that these few minutes nicely introduce the themes and dynamics in the film.

On a deeper level, "Five" is a good film that includes copious commentary on both the unofficial caste system in American society and the viability of true love. In many ways, it seem like a kinder and gentler Ayn Rand creation.

"Ten" centers around discount-store tycoon John Rarick moving his wife Jenny, adult daughter Jennifer (played by Davies), and adult son Avery  from Kansas City to New York City to expand his retail empire and improve the social standing of the Rarick clan.

Soon on arriving to take a bite out of the Big Apple, Jennifer literally uses Daddy's money to buy her way into participating in a charity fair. Although blatantly shunned by most of the one-percenters at the event, Jennifer catches the eye of playboy architect Berry Rhodes.

The very dapper Leslie Howard of "Of Human Bondage" and "Gone With the Wind," plays this leading man. Archive shares that Davies is the force behind selecting Howard for this very well-cast role.

Despite the brakes being placed on the first effort of Berry and Jennifer to connect in a meaningful manner, a driven Jennifer orchestrates a second collision that ends up with Berry essentially inviting her up to his swanky bachelor pad to see his etchings.

The primary obstacle to true love in this case comes in the form of socialite Muriel Preston, who is the fiancee of Berry. The love between these bon vivants is not especially strong but provides each of them enough benefits to motivate them to continue its path.

A determined Jennifer does not let a little thing like an engagement to a leader in New York society deter her from pursuing her man. The lengths to which she will go (and the humiliation that it causes) and the compromise that Berry suggests provide much of the aforementioned social commentary.

Meanwhile back in the luxurious Rarick homestead, the highly capable and charming (but unfulfilled) Avery is struggling to avoid taking his place in the family business. Other drama comes in the form of the Madame Bovaryesque Jenny becoming involved with a gigolo despite begging John to devote even a small fraction of the attention that he focuses on his business on her.

These subplots provide some of the best moments in "Five."  A scene in which Avery simultaneously asserts his role as the eldest son and breaks down the barrier between master and servant is one of the best in the film.

The final moments of "Five" also are great in that they expertly combine the melodrama of the film with the twist that contributes so much to enjoying the films of the era.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Five" is welcome to either email me or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.