Lloyd Bacon | Miss Pinkerton | 42nd Street | The Irish in Us | Marked Woman | Three Cheers for the Irish | Footsteps in the Dark | Larceny, Inc. | It Happens Every Spring

Classic Film and Television Home Page

Lloyd Bacon

Lloyd Bacon is a Hollywood film director.

Subjects in Lloyd Bacon films:

Sports: Science: Settings: Costumes:

Miss Pinkerton

Miss Pinkerton (1932) is a version of Mary Roberts Rinehart's better novel, one of her series about a nurse-detective, Hilda Adams, nicknamed "Miss Pinkerton". Joan Blondell as the nurse and George Brent as her policeman friend shine at their romantic banter, but the rest of the film has too much Old Dark House-ism. Blondell lets out several screams that would have done Evelyn Ankers proud confronting the Wolf Man - a come-down from the sensible (and feminist) sleuth of the novel.

The shots of the sleuths using flashlights are striking. These make dramatic circles of light. One showing Brent revealing a bad guy is is especially dramatic.


42nd Street

42nd Street (1933) is the first of the remarkable Warner Brothers musicals with choreography by Busby Berkeley.

The director of the stage show (played by Warner Baxter), is unusual in being a gay man. He is not explicitly labeled as such, but his characterization is distinct. The next year, in the otherwise not very good Wonder Bar (1934), Bacon will include a brief scene of two gay men dancing. These are some of the most gay portraits of the 1930's.

42nd Street ends with Baxter, melancholy and alone, with crowds streaming out celebrating his stage show. It is a haunting image.

The touring group of entertainers in 42nd Street anticipate the traveling baseball team in It Happens Every Spring.

Characters in Bacon tend to get mild, non-serious temporary injuries, which affect their work on the job. In It Happens Every Spring, there is the wooden splint. In 42nd Street, star Bebe Daniels has to walk around on crutches for a little while, just long enough to make her miss opening night.

Uniforms

The cop twirling his nightstick in time with the music in the finale is a memorable image. It is not clear whether Bacon had anything to do with this finale, or whether it is the work of choreographer Busby Berkeley.

The Irish in Us

The Irish in Us (1935) is a comedy.

The Sports Finale

SPOILER. The Irish in Us moves to the same finale as 42nd Street: The lead has to go out and substitute for a comically, temporarily incapacitated star, and becomes a public success in their own right. In 42nd Street, this was Ruby Keeler playing a lead on Broadway. In The Irish in Us, it is James Cagney substituting for a knocked-out boxer in the ring.

The finale of The Irish in Us also anticipates It Happens Every Spring, with escapist fantasies of a non-athlete getting to perform in professional sports. It also recalls another non-athlete who gets into a contest with a pro, in the swim meet in You Said a Mouthful. As in You Said a Mouthful, the professional athlete is looking for an easy contest against an unskilled opponent, only to meet with stiffer competition than he expects.

The final sports contests of You Said a Mouthful and The Irish in Us also resemble each other, in that their protagonists spend a good deal of time being helped out and encouraged by their families and loved ones. They don't succeed on their own; they win with others' help.

Uniforms

The Irish in Us has uniformed characters and male grooming:

Marked Woman

Marked Woman (1937) is a crime melodrama.

Secret Lives

Marked Woman has a number of people embodying that Lloyd Bacon subject secret lives:

Relations across Classes

Marked Woman also develops another Bacon theme, relations across class lines. Working woman Bette Davis eventually develops a rapport with upper crust DA Humphrey Bogart. The film suggests that this is not going to be easy. It might not go anywhere. In some other Bacon films, such relations are often between two men.

Bogart is clearly well-educated and is very articulate in the courtroom, so he is at the borderline of the intellectual that often forms one half of the educated intellectual - working man Bacon pair.

Science

Unlike some other Bacon films, there is not much about science in Marked Woman. Bogart's one-way window for viewing suspects in perhaps a technological aspect of his character.

Staircases

The staircases in Marked Woman are not as large as some in Bacon films. But they are key settings:

Three Cheers for the Irish

Three Cheers for the Irish (1940) is a comedy-drama about a retired Irish policeman in New York City and his family.

The gap between Dennis Morgan, a graduate of the Police College, and the beat cop Thomas Mitchell, is a bit like that between the intellectuals and working class men in other Bacon. However, Morgan's character does not get any intellectuality stressed. He does really know his police regulations and procedures, which he quotes on occasion.

Street Life

Some of the New York City street scenes recall the final music number in 42nd Street, the title tune of that show: It is unclear how much Bacon had to do with the finale of 42nd Street: maybe it is mainly the work of choreographer Busby Berkeley. Still, the similarity of imagery is striking.

Staircase

There is a striking shot showing Dennis Morgan going down the apartment house staircase. As is perhaps typical of Bacon, the stairs are steep and long. The camera angle is tilted and somewhat overhead. The staircase is in the background of several other scenes.

Uniforms

Dennis Morgan is in a dressy police uniform in most of his scenes.

Thomas Mitchell is given a nightstick, as a present (by a fellow cop) for his 25th anniversary as a policeman. This is an example in Bacon of one man involved with another man's appearance.


Footsteps in the Dark

Footsteps in the Dark (1941) has nothing to do with Georgette Heyer's 1932 novel of the same name. Rather, it is a comedy mystery starring Errol Flynn. He plays a wealthy businessman who has a secret life as a mystery writer. Eventually he gets involved in a real murder case himself, turning amateur sleuth to solve the mystery.

The film is at it best in its first half. These are the sections with the most about Flynn's double life. The second half tends to neglect this aspect, and just be a conventional whodunit, one that goes on way too long. The first half has some delightful comedy as well, including Flynn's impersonation of a Texas rancher. Flynn's character is getting to try out all sorts of roles, something that the public has always enjoyed daydreaming about. In general, the comedy in this film is much more interesting than the mystery.

Two Kinds of Detective Fiction

The film has been paying attention to the intuitionist - realist controversy in prose detective fiction: Hale and Flynn challenge each other to the solution of a real life mystery. Unfortunately, the debate is not sustained throughout the film. Instead the police turn into the cliché dumb flat foots of the whodunit film, always having some stupid idea they are following.

Other features of the realist school also play a role in the story:

Allen Jenkins

The movie under-exploits Allen Jenkins as Flynn's long-suffering assistant. When Jenkins does get a chance to toss off a wisecrack, he does it with his usual expertise. Mainly, Jenkins must rely on his facial expressions to contribute to the scenes. One shot of this archetypal tough guy working as Flynn's typist is priceless. Jenkins has an "I'm agreeable and I'll do anything" kind of look. He also looks as if he is enjoying his work. Jenkins' characters always have a dog like loyalty. There is something reassuring about his presence. He also looks resourceful and practical.

This background approach to supporting players is perhaps typical of Bacon. He restricted Jenkins similarly in 42nd Street (1933) to an occasional one liner. By contrast, Roy Del Ruth tends to give Warners' contract players whole scenes to themselves, allowing them to really shine.

Staircases

There is a big staircase in the foyer of Flynn's mansion. One recalls the giant staircase in the kitchen, in Bacon's Miss Pinkerton (1932).

Larceny, Inc.

Larceny, Inc. (1942) is a crime comedy.

Larceny, Inc. opens with the characters playing baseball, anticipating It Happens Every Spring and Kill the Umpire.

The characters in Larceny, Inc. have a secret life, a Bacon tradition. This secret life involves a criminal scheme, unlike the men with honest secret lives in Footsteps in the Dark and It Happens Every Spring.


It Happens Every Spring

It Happens Every Spring (1949) is a science fiction and baseball comedy. Like Bacon's early Joe E. Brown comedy vehicle You Said a Mouthful, it stars a man who makes a scientific invention, and uses it to take part in professional sports.

It Happens Every Spring shows similar character types as Footsteps in the Dark:

Both films pit two approaches to an activity against each other. One approach is science-based, one is not: The two movies are not an exact parallel: in It Happens Every Spring, the hero is the scientist; in Footsteps in the Dark, the hero is the non-scientist amateur.

Science

It Happens Every Spring takes place in a technological world. The portrait of the hero as a scientist is quite elaborate, with lab work, teaching, note taking, funding, jobs and scientific books he reads.

As in Footsteps in the Dark, radio broadcasts play a role in It Happens Every Spring.

The heroine uses a magnifying glass on newspaper photos, a striking image. She also uses binoculars, at the baseball game.

Uniforms

It Happens Every Spring is full of uniforms and male grooming: