This week’s mystery movie was the 1931 MGM film “Five and Ten,” with Marion Davies, Leslie Howard, Richard Bennett, Irene Rich, Kent Douglass and Mary Duncan.
From the book by Fannie Hurst. Dialogue continuity by Edith Fitzgerald. Adaptation by A.P. Younger.
Recording by Douglas Shearer, art direction by Cedric Gibbons, gowns by Adrian. Photographed by George Barnes. Edited by Margaret Booth.
“Five and Ten” is available on DVD from TCM.
I wanted to do a Marion Davies movie because Lara Gabrielle has a biography of her, “Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies,” coming out from UC Press next year. My first choice was “Operator 13” (1934) with Gary Cooper, which will air on TCM later this month. A Civil War picture with Marion Davies as a Union spy in blackface? Seriously? Unfortunately, previewing “Operator 13” last Sunday was miserable. It’s more tableaux vivants than a film. Static, motionless, like paintings where someone happens to be talking. There is some running late in the film when Davies and Cooper are trying to escape. Otherwise? Motionless.
My quickie substitution was “Five and Ten,” an obvious, moralizing tale from Fannie Hurst about a smalltime merchant from the provinces who has made a fortune and brings his nouveau-riche family to New York. We have the work-obsessed husband and father (Richard Bennett), the lovelorn, ignored spouse who is fooling around (Irene Rich), the spoiled, wealthy son who doesn’t know what to do with himself (Kent Douglass), and the beautiful, perky, plucky daughter (Marion Davies). Throw in some snooty New York socialites (Mary Duncan), a world-weary architect (Leslie Howard) and the plot writes itself. (This movie is a reminder than Howard didn’t want to play Ashley Wilkes in “Gone With the Wind” as he was tired of being cast as a dissipated, world-weary intellectual, and yes, he did play a lot of them).
Let’s see which New York Times critic hated it….
Seems like L.N. (writing July 11, 1931) sort of liked it:
The most recent of Fannie Hurst’s social histories to reach the local screen now ambles on its happy way at the Capitol. It is called “Five and Ten” and in brief it tells the story of what happens to elderly merchants who spend all their time being energetic about business. These things can perhaps best be summed up under the heading of gigolo and Junior League; although there seems to be a touch of manic depressive insanity as well. That is contributed, rather unexpectedly, by “Five and Ten’s” son.
However, far beyond the glum outlook of the economic lords is the fact that the picture is enjoyable. Marion Davies has a part in it — that of the merchant’s daughter; and also there is Leslie Howard. He glides gently along his way, making love in that bland way best known to young architects and playwrights on the Riviera. And then, toward the end, when he has used up all the possible humor of his own part, he seems to chuckle gently about “Five and Ten’s” conclusion. He is right about that.
For Monday, we have a mystery woman. For a change of pace, she is ignoring such goings-on.
Update: This is Mary Duncan.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery gent on the telephone.
Update: This is Theodore von Eltz.
Brain Trust roll call: The Starlight Studio (mystery movie and mystery woman) and Sheila (Monday’s mystery woman).
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have this mysterious airman. He does not appear to approve of such goings-on.
Update: This is Kent Douglass.
We also have this mysterious taxi driver. His fare has been cropped out due to insufficient mysteriousness and will appear Friday.
Update: For Friday, here’s the mysterious taxi passenger.
Update: This is Henry Armenta and Marion Davies.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (Tuesday’s mystery gent), Sheila (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery gent) and Mike Hawks (mystery movie and both mystery guests).
For “Aha Thursday,” Wednesday’s mystery pilot has a mysterious companion.
Update: This is Irene Rich and Kent Douglass.
Also for “Aha Thursday,” we have this mystery gent.
Update: This is Richard Bennett.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery woman and Wednesday’s mystery guests), Blackwing Jenny (Wednesday’s mysterious taxi driver), Howard Mandelbaum (Monday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guests, giving credit for the mystery movie), Anne Papineau (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery woman and Wednesday’s mysterious taxi driver), Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery guests) and Sheila (Wednesday’s mystery guests).
And for Friday, our mysterious leading man and leading lady.
Update: This is Leslie Howard and Marion Davies.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Tuesday’s mystery gent and Thursday’s mystery guests), Blackwing Jenny (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery gent and Wednesday’s mysterious, unhappy pilot), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery guests), Anne Papineau (Thursday’s mystery gents) and Megan and Thom (mystery movie and all mystery guests). And by email Alexa Foreman (Wednesday’s unhappy pilot).