There’s not much Mitchell Leisen on YouTube, but fortunately this clip from THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1938 was there, saving me the trouble of loading it. It’s not really a film, as such, more a collection of songs and skits, and as a result it doesn’t really show Leisen’s true abilities at sculpting emotion, although there is a Mexican number, reflecting his rampant obsession with that land, and this heart-tugging moment.
Heart-tugging, with Bob Hope? Watch it and see. Deprived of any real emotional meat in the film, Leisen sinks his teeth into this scene, going for the tear ducts with his usual discreet ruthlessness. The blocking and cutting is extremely simple, but the choice of hitting the big weepy moments with close-ups really pays dividends, and shows how effective such tight framing can be if it’s held back for when it’s needed.
Hope’s partner here is Shirley Ross, and she’s the real heart of it, and Leisen knows it.