Archive for Ruthelma Stevens

The Manipulator

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2020 by dcairns

A really good double feature — THE MIND READER and THE DARK HORSE.

The former has Warren William as mentalist, starting as a failed sideshow hustler and discovering the psychic gag as a way to hustle at a higher level. Very snazzy direction from Roy Del Ruth with a lot of Dutch tilts and some sweeping crane shots. William as maybe the worst scoundrel of his professional career, since his act actually ruins lives and kills people, and he reforms once then shamelessly backslides. Put it this way, he’s so bad, the movie can’t exonerate him at the end, and he has to go to prison.

Allen Jenkins’ last line is wonderfully bathetic: “Gee, boss, it seems a shame you’re going away just when beer’s coming back.”

Good little role for Clarence Muse: as always, he deserves more. Unrewarding sappy gf part for Constance Cummings, a brief sighting of the bewitching Ruthelma Stevens, wheeled on to glower accusingly before the elevator shaft beckons.

THE DARK HORSE (dir: Alfred E Green) is a key work in the Warner precode mission to FULLY DOCUMENT AMERICA: it’s about the biggest racket of them all, politics, and shows how a brainless candidate (Guy Kibbee in his apotheosis, above) gets more or less accidentally nominated and how the machine gets behind him to transform a rustic chump into something the electorate can be fooled into voting for. In charge of that transformation: Warren William, of course.

Arguably there’s too much about WW’s love life, which is of course amusing but not 100% central to the political issues. Actually, issues are not discussed (the candidate has no platform), but the one big issue — the failure of American politics to produce worthy politicians, the packaging, instead, of chumps — kind of fades in the second half. Bette Davis is the romantic interest but she must have had an envious eye on the bad girl part, which Vivienne Osborne triumphs in. I don’t know why she wasn’t bigger.

No Jenkins in this one, but it has Frank McHugh so that’s fine: the schmoe quotient is filled.

Asides from WW, the hidden connection seems to be screenwriter Wilson Mizner, who was working himself to death at Warners from 32-33. His name is wonderfully seedy: I somehow picture him typing in fingerless gloves and a raincoat.

Ruthelma

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on September 8, 2011 by dcairns

In THE SCARLET EMPRESS, her best-known movie, Ruthelma Stevens is understandably blown off the screen by Fraulein Dietrich, but when I saw her in her two movies with Adolphe Menjou as DA/sleuth Thatcher Colt, I was impressed by her quality of seriousness and intelligence. But, for whatever reasons, Ruthelma never made it as a star — her turn as Sam Jaffe’s mistress in SCARLET EMP was virtually her last credited role.

Sternberg obviously remembered her though, because he used her again for a bit in JET PILOT, which seems to be her last film of all. Among the movies she graced in her later years, wearing her years graciously but quite openly, is Val Lewton’s last movie as producer, which happens to be the subject of this week’s edition of The Forgotten: in APACHE DRUMS, Ruthelma plays dance hall proprietor (read: madame) Betty Careless.

Fiona’s reaction on reading the sign outside the dance hall: “I want to be Betty Careless!”

Here’s more on Ruthelma (that NAME!) from an avid fan.

Buy a Ruthelma classic:  The Scarlet Empress (The Criterion Collection) (See all Dramatic Classics)