Saturday, June 23, 2018

Reaching for the Moon

I get the New York City local channels as part of my DirecTV package, even though with the antenna I've got I can only get the Albany channels. Anyhow, the City itself has a TV channel and that channel runs lousy public-domain prints of movies that feature the city in some way. One of the recent selections was Reaching for the Moon. The movie is available on DVD from Alpha Video, but more on that later.

Bebe Daniels plays Vivien Benton, the leader of the Aero Girls, a group of aviatrices who are about to hop on a boat and go over to London. Or at least she's supposedly an aviatrix; why she couldn't just fly to London I don't know. This was early October, 1929, two years after Lindbergh, and she could have stopped in Iceland anyway. But the send-off party is women only, much to the chagrin of some of the women.

Holding a meeting at the same hotel where the party is is stockbroker Larry Day (Douglas Fairbanks Sr.), the sort of stockbroker who was a staple of those movies discussing high finance. Unsurprisingly, he and Vivien wind up meeting, and the two fall for each other, leading Larry to try to book passage on the same transatlantic liner as Vivien. And he wants her to fall for him, even though he doesn't really know the best way to go about it.

With that in mind, Larry's butler Roger (Edward Everett Horton) tells Larry that he has a love potion that will make people romantically amorous -- just stick it in a cocktail, which you can do out on the boat since it's in international waters and Prohibition no longer applies. Complications ensue, one in the form of Vivien having another man pursuing her, and another in the stock market crash -- note how I mentioned October 1929 above.

IMDb lists the movie as running 91 minutes, which made me a bit nervous when I noticed that the movie had been put in a 90-minute slot. As it turns out, there are a bunch of truncated prints available, and the one that ran on TV was about 72 minutes. (I don't know whether the 91-minute print exists.) Reviews on IMDb imply that there have been prints of other lengths available, including one cut down to 62 minutes and another at 74 minutes. As for Alpha Video, their website says the DVD they have is 68 minutes.

And it's the truncated print that presents a lot of problems with the movie. (It's also why my synopsis feels even more cursory than normal.) It feels as if the story is incoherent, which it probably is, and actions that would establish character motivations are missing. One thing that wasn't cut out of the print I saw what a musical number that featured what I think is Bing Crosby's earliest surviving film footage. His song is accompanied by a dance on ship where the passengers are doing a rather energetic ballroom dance, and it's the highlight of an otherwise lackluster film.

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