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After a short course as Cecil B. De Mille's assistant, Wood spent 15 years making pictures for Paramount, then switched to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He directed the Wallace Reid racing pictures, switched to early Gloria Swansons and Rudolph Valentines. Since Chips he has been freelancing.
Sam Wood's insistence on having first-rate actors and technicians to work with is one reason for his great success. Another is the fact that he is probably the most thorough director in the business. He works at top speed and shoots clean film; but he can be very finicky about small details. During the making of Kings Row he ordered a horse scene reshot so many times that an assistant finally observed: "This will have to be the last take, Sam; the horse just called the Guild."
Hellzapoppin (Mayfair Productions; Universal). The firm of John Sigvard Olsen and Harold Ogden Johnson has been manufacturing calculated lunacy for 27 years. In all that time their product has changed no more than a hooked rug.
Three years and four months ago this pair of astute businessmen of vaudeville assembled their lifetime's wares in a single prize package called Hellzapoppin. It ran 1,404 performances (an all-time Broadway musical-show record), grossed over $4,000,000, sent nearly 5,000,000 customers temporarily insane.
On celluloid, Hellzapoppin loses the frenetic quality it achieved on the stage. Lena still wanders through the set calling for Oscar; the little flowerpot whose owner won't claim it still grows by stages into a gigantic tree; homicide and suicide are amiably rampant; gags rise and fall by the bushel; some skits succeed, more fail.
But Olsen & Johnson's ability to exude a kind of ectoplasm which engulfs a theater audience and makes it participate in the show is necessarily cut off when the show is confined to the screen. The stage show, a cross between a fire in a lunatic asylum and the third day at Gettysburg, becomes only a small Balkan war in the movies. Stripped of its unsurpassable insanity, the name for it is ham vaudeville. O & J do not deny it. They call it "gonk."
Sample gonk: Olsen, in a grotesque mask, takes a seat among the audience and tries to scare some crusty, upper-class dames. They fail to frighten. He removes the mask, turns his face to the lady next to him. She takes one look and shrieks.
Son of Fury (20th Century-Fox) is a cineversion of Novelist Edison Marshall's swashbuckling adventure tale, Benjamin Blake. It shows intrepid Tyrone Power, back once again in skin-tight breeches and waistcoat, fighting from hell to breakfast to prove that he was not born on the wrong side of the blanket. His fisticuffs with villainous George Sanders, and a South Seas side trip to pick up a pearly fortune, suffice to win back the English baronetcy that is oh-so-rightfully his.
The picture is loaded with old English atmosphere, dolphins, savages, jungle sounds, sepia seascapes, and all the paraphernalia that Hollywood takes along on an expensive romantic adventure. It also has youthful (21) Gene Tierney, fresh from a series of variegated roles (gun moll, hillbilly, outlaw, Arab spy, half-caste), to tempt Tyrone to tarry in Tahiti. He chases her all over the place.