Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Man's Castle

Loretta Young returns for a third night as TCM's Star of the Month for January 2013. This third night kicks off with one more pre-Code, Man's Castle, at 8:00 PM.

Spencer Tracy gets top billing over Loretta Young. The two play Bill and Trina respectively; they're two of the millions of down on their luck people affected by the Great Depression. In fact, they first meet in a park where Bill is feeding the birds and Trina is looking for something to eat. Bill takes pity on her and offers to take her "home" with him; home being a shantytown similar to the place Carole Lombard meets "forgotton man" William Powell at the beginning of My Man Godfrey.

Trina falls in love with Bill, and while Bill likes Trina as a friend, he's not necessarily in love with her, or with anybody at all, preferring not to be tied down so he can maintain his freedom. Indeed, while keeping Trina in his shack at the shantytown, he's also seeing a nightclub singer (Glenda Farrell in a relatively small role). But then Trina learns that she's pregnant courtesy of Bill. What's a man to do? Well, the only thing he knows is to call on fellow shantytown resident Bragg (Arthur Hohl), a criminal who had been suggesting a plot to rob the payroll of a toy company. Bragg is a shady character in more ways than one, however. Not only is he a criminal, he's got his eyes on Trina despite having a lady friend of his own (Marjorie Rambeau).

Man's Castle has some really good performance. Spencer Tracy plays a character who, on the face of it, should be really unappealing. I mean, Bill treats Trina almost like dirt, at least until she gets knocked up. Trina, for her part, seems rather clingy at times, although I suppose that might be due in part to the circumstances: if there's a depression going on, why not hold on to whatever little you can get? Despite the difficult characters both leads have to play, Tracy and Young both succeed in making the viewer care about what happens to their characters, and in a positive way. Rounding out the cast is Walter Connolly (Claudette Colbert's father in It Happened One Night), playing a man of the cloth who's ended up in the shantytown along with Bill and Bragg, and treats Bill almost the way a father treats his son. His character is a bit unrealistic, but Connolly does a good job with what he's got.

Despite the presence of some really high-caliber stars, Man's Castle is a relatively little-known movie. As far as I know it's never even gotten a DVD release, so you're going to have to catch the rare showing on TCM.

No comments: