film 3 of 5

The Milky Way

Draft Review by Dean Duncan May 21, 2015

Harold’s character is intact and interesting, with significant updatings, as now his success comes more through fluke and external chicaneries as from his own resolve, he quotes his Speedy introduction, but he’s not desperately dredging up past glories: a pleasing way with dialogue, quietly sophisticated sound design and a general sharing of focus and funnies suggest that he was more than fit for the talkies, even if history tells us (correctly?) that he couldn’t make it in the new environment; while it’s true that Harold’s intact, the rest of this excellent film plays more like a great string of Hal Roach two reelers, which I suspect is something altogether new, this, in addition to uniformly funny character bits–it’s a lot like It’s a Gift, in fact–suggests that Leo McCarey’s the culprit, and I finally begin to see why Jean Renoir thought so highly of him: during the first fight the camera casually travels away from what we’d normally think of as the key information, partly because it nicely sets up a good joke, and partly because there’s substance and beauty where ever one might care to turn, he frequently, even movingly takes the time to let characters interact, loosely and, one suspects, improvising, and in sharing in the actors’ obvious delight in the good fun mixed with the great craft, one actually is able to feel that there’s love in the process; the women are especially pleasing in their surprising roundedness (as it were)–even the typed looking society lady is allowed to let her hair down by learning to box in maybe the funniest scene, otherwise, deep space, multiple gags, deep sound, strong structural units, and plenty of little pleasures within them