Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Joe E. Brown birthday salute, part 1

Joe E. Brown (l.) discovers the truth about Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot (1959)

Tomorrow marks the birth anniversary of Joe E. Brown, who was born on July 28, 1892. One of his more well-known performances is as the old millionaire who falls in love with Jack Lemmon, not realizing Lemmon is in drag and escaping from gangsters, in Billy Wilder's classic Some Like It Hot. Brown started his career in vaudeville, and moved to Hollywood at the beginning of the sound era, where he made a lot of movies for Warner Bros. during the 1930s. TCM is showing some of those 1930s movies all morning and afternoon tomorrow, and the first one I'd like to recommend shows up at 6:00 AM ET: Eleven Men and a Girl.

37-year-old Brown plays a college student at a college that's struggling because it has a lousy football team. His lady friend, Joan Bennett, happens to be the daughter of the college president, and Brown comes up with a good idea for her to help her father save the school by getting a good football team: use her abundant sex appeal to lure All-Americans from other colleges to transfer and play for her school! (Apparently there have always been groupies.)

The football players are played by real-life All-American college football players from the 1928/29 football season, and as with The Big Game, college football players don't necessarily make good actors. As such, the movie is much more a curiosity than a good movie. Having been made in 1930, it's interesting to see how much pre-Code sex appeal Bennett can bring. Also, seeing Joe E. Brown develop his style is worth a look. He gets one good scene with a bear, but the rest of it is dragged down by a subpar script.

Eleven Men and a Girl has not been released to DVD, and doesn't show up all that often on TCM, so you're going to have to catch tomorrow's showing.

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