Saturday, November 7, 2015

One Sunday Afternoon (1933) vs. The Strawberry Blonde

I've mentioned the movie One Sunday Afternoon a couple of times in the past, although I've only mentioned it is the first film version of the better-known The Strawberry Blonde. I DVR'ed One Sunday Afternoon back when Gary Cooper was in Summer Under the Stars in August, and finally got around to watching it.

For those who don't know the story, Gary Cooper plays Lucius "Biff" Grimes, a dentist in some nondescipt midwestern town at the turn of the last story. He's spending his Sunday afternoon at his home dentist office with his best friend, sign painter Snappy (Roscoe Karns). It's clear from their conversation that Biff is an embittered man, with a wife Amy (Frances Fuller) whom he considers second best, and still thinking about the woman he loved, Virginia (Fay Wray) but lost to his former friend Hugo (Neil Hamilton). It turns out that Hugo is back in town, and it also turns out that he's got a dental emergency that only the town's dentist can handle. Biff has a chance to get back at Hugo....

With that, we get a flashback to how Biff and Hugo, back when they were friends, met Virginia and Amy at the park one day. Biff wanted Virginia, but Amy wanted Biff. Virginia really preferred Hugo, and hugo is at every oppourtunity trying to take Virginia away out of Biff's reach, which obviously does happen eventually and leads to Amy's snookering Biff into a marriage proposal. Hugo goes on to big things, while Biff is still hoping to do his correspondence training to become a dentist. But for that he needs money, so he's doing a series of menial jobs including working for Hugo, which brings the two into more conflict with each other and eventually has Hugo committing perjury to put Biff in jail!

Of course, if you've seen The Strawberry Blonde, you'll know much of the story line. I think that I prefer The Strawberry Blonde, but as with The More the Merrier and Walk, Don't Run, I think both films have their strong points. Gary Cooper is excellent as Biff, the man with a dark past. James Cagney is good and of course played all those gangster roles, but I think it's with good reason that The Strawberry Blonde has a bit lighter tone what with Cagney as the star. That lighter town, however, really helps for the other man. The Strawberry Blonde cast Jack Carson in that role, and he's at his oozy, smarmy best here. Neil Hamilton is a bombast, but often comes across as ill at ease with that bombast. Carson is also a much more effective smooth operator while Hamilton is more direct. Rita Hayworth plays the object of James Cagney's affection, and while it's easy to see when any man would be infatuated with her, I think Fay Wry is better suited to play the sort of woman who would marry a man like Hugo. And as for the story, I think The Strawberry Blonde does it a bit better since it has longer to flesh everything out. I found the ending of One Sunday Afternoon to be a bit abrupt and unsatisfying.

Still, both versions are worth a watch. One Sunday Afternoon was made by Paramount, but it ended up in the Warner Bros. vaults when they purchased the rights to the story to make The Strawberry Blonde, which would explain how One Sunday Afternoon ended up getting a release from the Warner Archive.

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