Sunday, January 4, 2009

William McKinley?

Some historical figures, for obvious reasons, appear more often on screen than others: Julius Caesar, Queen Elizabeth I of England, or Abraham Lincoln would be obvious choices for Hollywood movies. Somebody who should be expected to get much less attention is President William McKinley. But he did show up as an important character in one studio era movie: This is My Affair, airing at 6:00 AM ET January 6 on the Fox Movie Channel.

Robert Taylor stars as a young Navy lieutenant at turn of the 20th century. There's been a string of bank robberies in the midwest, and President McKinley brings Taylor in as a special agent to try to infiltrate the gang; Taylor is to report only to McKinley because McKinley thinks one of his advisors might be in cahoots with the gang. Along the way, Taylor falls in love with Barbara Stanwyck, a moll who'd really rather be out of the gang. However, just when it looks as though Taylor is about to crack the case open, McKinley gets assassinated. T he gang gets arrested, with Taylor being sentenced to execution -- unless he can prove his case.

The basic idea behind the story isn't too bad, although it's fairly predictable and been done a number of times. Perhaps because of that predictability, This is My Affair falls flat as a movie. The actors simply go through the motions, as though they're not really trying. It doesn't help that Stanwyck is asked to sing here, and wear ghastly outfits, neither of which really suited her. Even worse, though, is the ham-handed treatment of McKinley's successor, Theodore Roosevelt. We see Roosevelt come up with his "speak softly and carry a big stick" slogan in what is a thoroughly contrived manner.

It is unsurprising then, that despite the two leading stars, that This Is My Affair hasn't made it to DVD. Still, those who are Barbara Stanwyck fans may want to watch. It doesn't show up on the Fox Movie Channel all that often, so this would be a good time to catch it.

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