Sunday, August 10, 2008

Prosperity (Sam Wood, 1932) B-

Sam Wood's Prosperity has all the makings of a bad MGM B-picture in the vein of Reducing with its cast (Marie Dressler, Polly Moran and Anita Page are all here again), really shoddy look and horrible editing. Somehow, none of these elements work against Prosperity and it becomes one of the finest films about the financial burden of the Depression I've ever seen. Marie Dressler is the owner of a small town bank and on the day her son is going to get married to Polly Moran's daughter, she steps down as president and hands the reins over to her son. After Moran inadvertently starts a bank panic, Dressler finds out that her son has invested the bonds that she held in security for the bank and can't get them back for at least six months, when the government building they were invested in is expected to be finished. Dressler is forced to close the bank but promises that they will reopen and even sells her house and all of her possessions to keep the customers happy until then. Dressler and her son's family is forced to move in with Moran and they all become miserable living there. The son leaves/is forced out and Dressler moves into a small apartment with him and starts working in a grocery store to support herself. Eventually, it looks the building they invested the bonds in won't be finished in time and it's left to Dressler to find a way out of this crisis. The early slapstick scenes are mildly amusing, but it's during the dramatic sections that Dressler truly shines. She rarely oversells the scenes or her reactions, which was her biggest tendency to do onscreen, and handles them like the old pro that she was. Even Polly Moran was tolerable (I'm excluding the scene where she's hollering like a banshee for her money in the bank) and was as subtle as I wager I'll ever see her.

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