Thursday, September 24, 2009

1940 - Manly BOOM TOWN is very turgid stuff towards the end

Boom Town is the kind of junk MGM would frequently dump on audiences. MGM the Cadillac of the Hollywood studio studio system during the 1940's, had the biggest stars and the best production facilities. Essentially a movie studio run as an assembly line factory. MGM would pump out films like this that had an alarming blandness. Talent in front and behind the camera were expected to breath life into this boring formula stuff.

MGM reteamed Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracy to duplicate the success of San Francisco, as further insurance, they cast Claudette Colbert who had had a big hit with Gable in It Happened One Night. Boom Town, starts out as a good natured entertainment about oil wildcatters. Gable and Tracy are fighting, drinking and feuding buddies trying to get rich bringing in oil wells. A woman comes between them and millions of miles of plot later Gable ends up as a rich oil tycoon who is cheating on his nice all American wife with the exotic Heddy Lamarr.

A big fistfight ensues where Tracy beats Gable into insensibility so he can see the error of his ways and go back to sweet bland wife Claudette Colbert. In the meantime, to oppose a big oil consortium, Gable creates a monopoly which brings him to the attention of the US government who puts him on trial. Tracy his on again off again friend, delivers a speech to the jury basically saying Gables monopoly is good for American business and the American people (MGM was a very conservative studio) Boom Town ends with the friends reuniting to start a new business.

Of note in the movie is the ridiculous and constant use of back screen projection and studio sets anytime the stars are involved, not one bit of realism is allowed to enter into the fantasy world of MGM. To even film on location would take away a piece of control from MGM. The cast is kind of interesting.

Frank Morgan shows up from time to time, as a sort of a best friend of Gable and Tracy, it's always hard to think of him in other roles since he is most closely associated with his role as the wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Claudette Colbert a woman who had played a lot of sexy interesting parts at Paramount in the 1930's here finds herself in the thankless role of the wife of Clark Gable. In the world of MGM, American housewives are sexless and boring. European actor Heddy Lamarr gets to play the dirty woman with the sex appeal who Gable has a fling with, she's in the movie so the middle class audience can enjoy her naughtiness while being smug and superior about her loose European morals.

Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy were fine actors and one has to give them credit for being able to breath any sort of life into this film. 

This is the kind of film that drives a dedicated film viewer to watching European movies with subtitles.

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