The Amazing Adventure (1936)

the amazing adventure

I am very much a fan of Cary Grant. I’ve seen most of his most popular films so sometimes I like to dig a little deeper and find something somewhat obscure (as obscure as a film starring one of the world’s most famous actors that is). As a bit of trivia, The Amazing Adventure is the only film the British actor ever made for a British studio. Over there it was titled The Amazing Quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss and had a run time of about 120 minutes. It was reissued in the United States as The Amazing Adventure and was cut down to just one minute over an hour’s length. The copyright was never renewed and so it entered the public domain, causing there to be untold editions of the film released on home video. Most of these are copies of copies of copies and look pretty terrible and as far as I can tell the original British cut has been lost.

The film is a slight thing, it feels like a knock-off version of the film My Man Godfrey which came out around the same time, though this one plays it mostly straight. Cary Grant feels like an amoeba version of the persona he’d play for most of his career. The charm is there, as is the lightness of his touch, but it isn’t quite in full bloom yet.

He plays Earnest Bliss, a rich playboy who has grown bored with his life. When he sees a doctor to see if there is anything wrong with him, he’s told that his money is the problem. What he needs is a little hard work, and perhaps to go hungry once in a while and that will put him right with the world. They make a bet that Bliss can’t spend one year of his life without using any of his money for personal gain, which come to think of it sounds an awful lot like the plot of Brewster’s Millions too.

He finds a cheap room to rent and spends a few weeks looking for a job. He strikes out as a salesman but then comes upon an idea to make the business a roaring success. It works and inexplicably he quits that job and becomes a driver for hire. This allows him to be seen by all his old rich pals, all of whom seem completely nonplussed that he’s down and out. There is a love interest, of course, and naturally, Bliss learns that money isn’t what makes a man happy. It is hard work and love that do that. Then the film ends with him back in his high-rise apartment throwing an expensive party.

It isn’t nearly as funny as it ought to be, and the drama never really sticks. I’d be interested to see what is in those extra 20 minutes that were cut out, but I can’t imagine they would turn this thing into a classic. Its short run time is actually a benefit to the film as I didn’t get bored, which I would have had it run a little longer.

Definitely worth watching if you are a Cary Grant fan.

Hot Saturday (1932)

hot saturday blu-ray

I love a good Pre-Code movie (movies made after the advent of sound in 1927 and before the Production Code went into full effect in 1934). While often tame by today’s standards these films often dealt with taboo subjects and could be quite racy.

Hot Saturday is a film that couldn’t have been made just a few years later. It also stars Cary Grant in one of his earliest starring roles (and it’s also before Cary Grant became “Cary Grant” the star we all love and adore).

Kino Lorber released a nice Blu-ray of it a few months ago and I wrote a review for Cinema Sentries.

To Catch a Thief (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 film To Catch a Thief is a light, fluffy picture that differs in content from much of the suspense masters’ other pictures. Cary Grant stars as a former thief, and patriot of the French Resistance, who is currently suspected of a new series of crimes. Grace Kelly plays the beautiful daughter of a rich American woman who is high on the list of possible victims of the new cat burglar.

The plot is all cotton candy. Shot in the French Riviera, Hitchcock allows his camera to take all of the beauty in. There are lots of lovely traveling shots of the location. Hitchcock follows cars driving the streets in high crane shots, simmers through the sea on a boat ride, and stops to take in the view of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly at a picnic overlooking a stunning valley.

Cary Grant is playing Cary Grant at this point, but that’s perfectly fine since there are few actors I enjoy more. Grace Kelly is simply gorgeous. Hitchcock’s camera is as admiring as a new suitor. Their interplay is fun, witty, and sensuous. A famous scene between them intercuts their developing romance with fireworks and is pure sizzle.

If you are looking to write a thesis on the genius of suspense then you should look elsewhere. But for a beautifully shot, light-hearted romance for a Saturday night, it would be difficult to find a better picture.