Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss (aka, The Amazing Adventure) (1936), Alfred Zeisler, with Cary Grant and Mary Brian

Intriguingly, a Cary Grant film that even many Grant fans will not have seen or heard about. The suave one went back to England for a spell to make this, and even though it is kind of a forgettable toss-off it is nonetheless entertaining. It was written by E. Phillips Oppenheim, a hugely successful author of crime stories and such in the early 20th century who is now all but forgotten. It’s a fairly typical Depression-era populist class fantasy, vaguely reminiscent of My Man Godfrey and made in the same year. The set-up is unpersuasive: Bliss (Grant), a millionaire playboy, visits his doctor who tells him that money is causing his inner sickness. The doc bets his patient 50,000 pounds that he’ll feel better if he can live for a year on his wits alone without access to his 2-million-pound inheritance. Thus, the adventure, which sets up several cute and clever situations in which Bliss seems to skirt the edge of starvation before making good in a number of various avocations including stove salesman, and chauffeur to many of his wealthy (and baffled) friends who are not privy to the nature of the bet. And of course, there is romance won, lost, won, in the confusion. One never gets the sense though, at any point, that Bliss is really in any danger in all of this, despite his zeal in sticking to the bet. Ziesler directs this confection with little elan; in fact there seems to be no style at all to the thing, and yet the accumulation of period detail, Grant’s personality and the general fleetness make it a mildly satisfactory diversion. Grade: C-

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