Fri 25 Feb 2011
TIMES SQUARE PLAYBOY. Warner Brothers, 1936. Warren William, June Travis, Barton MacLane, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Dick Purcell. Screenplay by Roy Chanslor based on the play “The Home Towners” by George M. Cohan. Director: William C. McGann.
With a running time of only 62 minutes, Times Square Playboy still seemed to last three times as long as it should have, at least if you ask me, and if you’re reading this, you might as well be. Although I didn’t time it precisely, I’d say it’s fifteen minutes for sure before there’s an inkling of what the story’s about.
And I’ll make this summary as short as I can. A fellow from Big Bend back home, Warren William, has come to the big city — New York City, to be precise – to make good, and make good he has. And at the age of 40 he’s found the girl he wants to marry (June Travis), who’s currently working as a singer at hot spot night club.
When his best man (Gene Lockhart) comes to town, the latter comes to the immediate conclusion that the new bride and her whole family are a bunch of chiselers ready for the kill, which is to say to sponge off William for the rest of their lives. To make things worse, he tells the groom-to-be so, and in no uncertain terms.
The two of them fight, the bride-to-be and her family are told off, they storm out … and the best man has some planning to do before the wedding is back on again. Two and a half paragraphs and I’ve told you everything. Even My Little Margie sitcoms had more story to them than this.
When I think of Warren William, I think of a classy but solidly rigid fellow — aristocratic if not out-and-out patrician.
He’s certainly that in this movie, but in Playboy he’s also given a butler-cum-valet (Barton MacLane) who as part of his duties engages his employer in down-to-earth wrestling matches to try to soften his image up a little. It’s a good try, but MacLane seems to fit his part better than William does.
June Travis made 30 movies in four years (1935-1938) and even her good brunette looks and broad grin of a smile didn’t mean that she made many movies with more of a B-budget than this one, which is a shame. (She did play Della Steet in one of the Perry Mason movies.)
A short simple plot, though, I have to admit, isn’t a crime. But a comedy that isn’t funny might as well be. I got the wrong vibes from this one. I think Lockhart’s accusations could have hit an accurate target just as easily as not, and if so, then where would this movie have gone?