A minor Frank Borzage melodrama, but not without interest for students of his style. Joan Crawford is a poor girl from the lower east side, unhappily married to a petty crook, who finds relief with Spencer Tracy, a self-made millionaire. Borzage’s gift for compact, succinct, visual metaphor is evident in his use of a flickering lightbulb in the stairway of Crawford’s tenement apartment; it becomes, in the space of a few frames, a heartbreaking symbol of dying hope. With Alan Curtis and Ralph Morgan (1937).
The principal source of the humor, it seems, is the usually unacknowledged fact that Schwarzenegger’s appearance and usual screen persona already has certain feminine and even maternal qualities, which this movie literalizes. In manner (i.e., voice and gesture) as well as appearance, Schwarzenegger, like Sylvester Stallone, has more in common with Jane Russell, Esther Williams, Jayne Mansfield, Anita Ekberg, and Dolly Parton than with the principal (and principally lean and mean) macho movie icons of the past — Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood. (Perhaps only Elvis Presley qualifies as a male star who encompassed both physical types over the course of a single career, at least if one gives precedence to sheer mass over muscles.)
Frank Borzage’s 1933 masterpiece stars Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young as two lovers who transcend the Depression in a New York shantytown. Few love stories have achieved the emotional intensity of Man’s Castle, and most of the others belonged to Borzage as well. He possessed the most delicate romantic sensibility in the movies, and his films are pervaded by a sublime spiritual quality that no one else has been able to capture. Leave your prejudices at home—this should be appreciated on its own terms. 75 min.
An action film for people who don’t like action films, directed in overstated CinemaScope by John Sturges in 1955. Spencer Tracy is a mysterious one-armed man in black who faces down the residents of a small isolated town, whom he suspects of having killed the father of his Japanese war buddy. Spence knows karate, Robert Ryan and the rest of the rednecks don’t; but everybody can moralize like hell.