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That Way with Women

That Way with Women(1947)

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That Way with Women (1947)

Searching for a vehicle to showcase what New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called "their latest bobby-sox favorite," Dane Clark, Warner Brothers dusted off a creaky old vehicle starring George Arliss, the venerable British actor and Academy Award winner (Disraeli, 1929), who couldn't have been less like the pugnacious, Brooklyn-born Clark. In actual fact, Arliss's role was taken by popular character actor Sydney Greenstreet, but it was Clark who was listed as star at the head of the credits.

That Way with Women was actually a remake of two Arliss pictures. Charlie Chan creator Earl Derr Biggers's Saturday Evening Post story "Idle Hands" was first made into the silent film The Ruling Passion (1922), in which Arliss played a self-made millionaire ordered to rest by his doctor. He soon grows bored and opens a garage on the sly so he can work pleasurably as a simple mechanic. By the early days of sound, the 63-year-old Arliss had become an unlikely star at Warner Brothers, and the studio trotted out the story again (adding dialogue by Booth Tarkington) with Arliss once more in the lead (and James Cagney in a small supporting part) in The Millionaire (1931).

In this version, Greenstreet is the millionaire James Alden, who takes on the identity of the family gardener in order to sneak off to a grease monkey job at the corner gas station run by Greg Wilson (Clark). Where this one veers from its predecessor is in forefronting a youthful--and contentious--love story between Clark's working-class lug and Greenstreet's society daughter. In his review, Crowther noted that making the romance the picture's dominant element was a big mistake, but apparently Clark's bobby-soxers following didn't mind.

Crowther may have overstated Clark's teen idol status. Already 35 when he made this film, the actor with the "Joe Average" appeal had been around for a while. He started on Broadway in the mid-1930s in several noteworthy plays before making his film debut in 1940, acting for a few years under his real name, Bernard Zanville. His breakthrough (and first role as "Dane Clark") came in the Humphrey Bogart film Action in the North Atlantic (1943). Just prior to That Way with Women, he had good roles in Pride of the Marines (1945) with John Garfield and A Stolen Life (1946) with Bette Davis.

Greenstreet, who made his memorable film debut at the age of 62 in The Maltese Falcon (1941), was nearing the end of his career by 1947, although he was enough in demand to make seven more films in the next two years before retiring after Malaya (1949).

Clark's love interest here is played by Martha Vickers, a rather pouty-looking beauty and second stringer at Warners whose previous roles included the wanton sister of Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep (1946). A couple of years after this, she would become wife number three (of eight) of Mickey Rooney. She and Rooney had a son, Teddy, who acted in a handful of movies and TV shows between 1958 and 1965. In 1960, ten-year-old Teddy Rooney and mom Martha Vickers made a pilot for a sitcom called "Man in the House," but it was not picked up by a network. She stopped acting that year and died of cancer in 1971 at the age of 46.

The direction of this picture was entrusted to Frederick De Cordova, better known as the longtime producer of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. This was only his third film as director. To shoot it, Warners gave him cinematographer Ted McCord, who would receive three future Academy Award nominations, including one for The Sound of Music (1965).

The music is by Frederick Hollander (aka Friedrich Hollaender), best know for his extended association with Marlene Dietrich on such films as The Blue Angel (1930), Destry Rides Again (1939), and A Foreign Affair (1948).

Director: Frederick De Cordova
Producer: Charles Hoffman
Screenplay: Leo Townsend, additional dialogue by Francis Swann, based on the story "Idle Hands" by Earl Derr Biggers
Cinematography: Ted McCord
Editing: Folmar Blangsted
Art Direction: Leo K. Kuter
Original Music: Frederick Hollander
Cast: Dane Clark (Greg Wilson), Martha Vickers (Marcia Alden), Sydney Greenstreet (James P. Alden), Alan Hale (Herman Brinker), Craig Stevens (Carter Andrews)

By Rob Nixon

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