Monday, April 18, 2011

One of those Merian Cooper movies

I mentioned earlier today that TCM will be showing a number of movies from Merian Cooper's time as head of production at RKO tomorrow. An interesting one that I don't think I've ever mentioned before is Stingaree, coming up at 10:15 AM ET tomorrow.

In 1870s Australia, Irene Dunne plays Hilda, a servant for some wealthy sheep ranchers who spends her spare time singing, and has a very nice operatic voice. Opera critic Sir Julian is coming for a visit, and Hilda is excited about this. But he's coming to see the boss's wife (Mary Boland), who can't sing, and the boss is planning to bundle Hilda off somewhere. Along the way, however, Sir Julian is waylaid by the notorious criminal "Stingaree" (Richard Dix), who kidnaps him, leaves him with his assistant Howie (Andy Devine), and tries to take Sir Julian's place. Stingaree falls in love with Hilda's voice, and Hilda falls in love with Stingaree, possibly in part because he can offer her a way out of her situation.

Time passes, and Stingaree gets arrested, while his intervention with Sir Julian has led him to discover Hilda's talents. So while Stingaree is rotting in prison in Australia, Hilda is going off to Europe to get opera training and becoming a wildly successful opera singer. She eventually undertakes a tour of Australia, and, well, you can probably guess what happens next.

Stingaree is interesting, although to be honest it's rather flawed. The plot can never really decide what it wants to be, and Richard Dix is pretty badly miscast for this role. One thing about the movie that's noteworthy is that it was out of circulation for a good 50 years. When Cooper left RKO, part of the severance settlement left him with the rights to six RKO movies, of which this was one. The movies apparently showed up once on New York City TV back in the 1950s, but then not again until TCM worked out the rights situation and got them back in 2007. TCM later released the six as part of a DVD box set. So, you can find this one on DVD, although it's quite pricey.

(Rafter Romance, which I recommended back in June 2008, is another one, as is One Man's Journey. Each of these was remade, and the two remakes are airing on TCM tomorrow as well: Living on Love at 2:15 PM is a remake of Rafter Romance, while A Man to Remember at 6:30 is a remake of One Man's Journey.)

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