Jessie Matthews ‘Climbs High’

September 5, 2013 | By

Up until seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s only musical (!) Waltzes from Vienna [M] (1934), I’d never heard of Jessie Matthews, a star of British cinema during the thirties.

Prior to Tom Thumb (1958), Matthews had in fact not appeared in a film since Candles at Nine (1944), a mystery satire that reportedly harmed her career like some kind of death blow. If her C.V. bears any cursory reading, prior to WWII she made almost a film a year, with a pause in 1938 until the war started to close in 1944. After a handful of films, she then vanished from movies.

VCI’s first Matthews film – First a Girl (1935) – kind of came out under the radar, but it’s perhaps her best-known work for North Americans not because they’ve seen it, but because it was a British remake of the German film Viktor und Viktoria (1933) which formed the basis for Blake Edwards classic comedy Victor Victoria (1982). I’ll have a review of the Brit remake title later, but I’ve jumped to the latest release from VCI, the extremely odd British take on the American screwball comedy Climbing High [M] (1938), directed by The Third Man’s Carol Reed. Yes, him. Co-starts include Michael Redgrave, and Alastair Sim as ‘an ugly man.’

Tied to that review is Friday the Thirteenth [M] (1933) – not a horror film, but a great little drama where a tragic bus ride is shown first, and we’re then shown the private moments of the riders leading up to the accident, not knowing who survived until the end. Great cast, direction, script, and memorable performances by some wonderful character actors including a younger-ish Edmund Gwenn and fast-talking Max Miller. The film’s actually available as a free download from Archive.org, and is worth your time.

The next roster of Matthews titles coming from VCI are There Goes the Bride (1932), Good Companions (1933), and one I’d really love to see, The Man from Toronto (1933). See, I live in Toronto, and whenever my city – currently governed by the worst mayor in its history – is noted in an older film, I’m curious.

I don’t expect any location footage (that would be amazing), but it is about a man from Toronto who must marry pronto! Early CanCon material also appears in Climbing High: Matthews’ honor is ‘defended’ by her brother (Torin Thatcher, with hair!) after he arrives fresh from cutting timber in Canada.

Because that’s what we do up here. We cut wood, woo women to Toronto, and have snow.

Yeah! Toronto!

Coming next: a podcast interview with John Piscitello, composer of the documentary No Place on Earth (2012), and thereafter, a review of Twilight Time’s Blu-ray edition of John Carpenter’s Christine (1983).

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Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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