Wednesday, October 2, 2019

High Pressure

I mentioned some time back that I picked up a box set of William Powell at Warner Bros. since I hadn't ctually seen any of the movies on it. I recently sat down and watched another selection off of it, High Pressure.

Powell plays a man named Gar Evans doesn't show up at first; instead, his friend Mike Donahey (Frank McHugh) is looking for him on behalf of another man, "Colonel" Ginsburg (George Sidney). It seems as though Gar has been on the bender to end all benders, and nobody knows where he is, especially not his long-suffering girlfriend Francine (Evelyn Brent).

The "Colonel" wants to find Gar because Gar is a business promoter, and Ginsburg has come across a great invention that just needs venture capital: an inventor has figured out a way to take sewage and turn it into synthetic rubber. It's an idea that's guaranteed to make millions, if it will pan out. And one of the catches is that the inventor has gone missing. But more importantly right not, the first thing is setting up a business and making it look as though there's a lot going on.

You see, Gar is a rather less than honest promoter, skirting the edge of illegal activity. As part of that skirting, he does like Warren William in Lady For a Day and hires a bunch of Runyanesque characters to work in executive positions under him, most notably Clifford Gray (Guy Kibbee) to be the president of the new company. There's also a secretary (Evalyn Knapp) who's secretly engaged to a man Gar takes on as a salesman; these of course were the days when women commonly quit working once they got married. As for Francine, she's Gar's good luck charm, but she's finally decided to leave Gar for good and marry another man -- if Gar can't sweet-talk her out of that.

As I said earlier, the inventor is nowhere to be found, so the folks from the natural rubber companies don't believe this ridiculous scheme is real. (To be fair, the movie was made before the invention of nylon, so synthetics outside of the hard plastics weren't quite so well known.) And if they can't get proof, they're going to go to the authorities and have Gar's stock float be stopped as fraudulent.

High Pressure is a movie that's firmly a product of the early 30s, with the Depression going on and get-rich quick schemes and shady stock schemes being things. For me, the movie barely worked, almost entirely thanks to the energetic performance of Powell. This is the sort of material that I'm often not a fan of since Gar is such a shady character. It's not quite what I call the comedy of lies, but it's close. Also, Ginsburg and the inventor (once he's found) are irritating characters. Finally, I would have liked a different ending.

Still, High Pressure is part of a box set, and some of you will probably like it more than I did, so I'd certainly recommend giving the movie a try.

No comments: