- by Zoë
Eve is in love with detective Danny Barr. And whilst he is keen on her too, she keeps him in his proper place. When Danny investigates a gem theft, Eve is sure
his interest in Mrs. Cole is not all in the line of duty. Eve loses her job, but gets a new one as a reporter. A child murder takes place, and Eve tricks Benny into confessing that Russ Cortig is the killer. Eve gets
fired, and Danny quits the force. Danny witnesses the murder of Cortig, by the gang boss, and the murderers grab him. Eve tips off the police and Danny makes an escape. All the thieves/murderers are caught. Did you
get all that???
Dan Barr (CG) is a flatfoot on the trail of jewel robbers. Eve Fallon (Joan Bennett) is his girl of 5 years. We meet them spitting and sparring, but never doubting they're in love. Eve is a manicurist,
with an eye for news. Soon after we meet her, she's out of the beauty salon and into the newsroom as an ace reporter. With Eve's help, Dan nabs one of the jewel gang members, Cortig, whose stray bullet killed a baby
in the park. A spooked witness and a slick lawyer get Cortig off. One of the best lines in the movie: Eve: "Dan's mad that Cortig didn't get the chair. But not me. The chair's too good for him. They oughta fry
him standing up." Disgusted with the lack of justice, Dan quits the force to find his own justice. Eve, likewise, quits the paper and returns to her job as manicurist. While giving a manicure, Eve unwittingly
discovers that a prominent local citizen is the jewel gang's leader. All the while, Dan is hot on the trail. Their trails merge and the case is solved.
There are a couple of good "Who's on first" scenes. One big must see is the totally lame, but you just gotta see it ventriloquist scene. To see Cary do this scene
is worth watching the whole movie. If you liked the bathrobe scene in 'BUB', you'll love the long ventriloquist scene. He plays a woman coming on to himself!
Film Review - May 6, 1936
- by "Kauf"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Extra strong programmer, which should do nicely by itself on
second runs, although it may have a bit of trouble running up any
marks in aces. It's a case of an extra good cast in a neat
yarn with exceptionally strong dialog. Pace lets down a bit
and the title will hurt some, but those are about all the faults
James Edward Grant,
newest of the Dashiell Hammett school of crime writers, wronte the
story for one of the nickel weeklies and Bert Hanlon and Raoul
Walsh collabed on the adaptation, retaining all the flavor and
helping by making it more humane. It's still a tough story
about tough guys and sophisticated crackers, but each of the
characters has been handled almost as if separately manufactured
and given personal attention. Result is a group of
believable people doing exciting, albeit unbelievable things.
From the personal
standpoint of Joan Bennett, the picture gives her a good break and
she takes it. She has a distinct assignment and handles it
with ease, which will probably result in her getting a new row to
hoe in the future.
Miss Bennett is a
shrewd manicurist in a Times Square barber shop, modern,
nimble-witted and good at repartee. She's in love with a cop
(Cary Grant) and helps him round up a gang of jewel crooks and
There's a newspaper
sequence and that, as usual, is so amazingly far from anything
likely to happen that it'll hand news scribes a laugh. Thus
Miss Bennett is fired from her manicurist job and a couple of
hours later lands a job as a reporter on a daily, at $30 a
week. She dictates all her stuff into a dictaphone and does
it so well that the managing editor, listening in to her
dictation, gives her a $20 raise. It's as easy as that - but
then, maybe the customers won't know the difference.
Grant handles his
assignment with his usual ease. He has developed into a
really capable light comedian, and blends the romance with that
convincingly. Walter Pidgeon is the head menace, doing it
with skill and finesse; Dougles Fowley is a comic crook in very
handy fashion; Lloyd Nolan is fine as the killer, though just a
mite too dandified; Marjorie Gateson is at her par in a comic
society dame assignment; Alan Baxter is routine as another killer;
Doris Canfield makes considerable of a bit as another manicurist.
Raoul Walsh helped on
the adaptation besides directing and obviously fell in love with
the dialog. Some of it is so fine as to make this
understandable, such as the scene when Miss Bennett helps Grant
pack, and the scene just before Nolan is bumped off by
Baxter. But if Walsh were only the director he would have
sacrificed some of the lines - good as they are - for the sake of
tempo and the result would have been worth it.
NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - May
- by Frank S. Nugent
- submitted by Barry Martin
With diligent employment of the
simple declarative sentence and the primer of plot-boiling,
"Big Brown Eyes," the new feature at the Capitol, stands
forlornly as an elementary essay in melodrama which stumbles over
its own footage and produced in this observer, at least, an
equally elementary pain in the neck. Admitting a few suspenseful
moments when Cary Grant is threatened with extermination by Alan
Baxter and some other cinema criminals, the picture rarely is
agile enough to surmount its shoddy writing and generally
What Walter Wanger asks us to
believe is the quite incredible romance between the blonde
manicurist who becomes - just like that - a composite
columnist-reporter-editorial writer on a newspaper and the
lovelorn detective who scampers about, confiding headquarters'
secrets in the columnist's aide and denying he has any personal
interest in the ridiculous society matron whose diamonds have been
Sandwiched between these two
animated caricatures is a bit of pious meditation on the
inadequacy of the judiciary to deal with known baby-killers and
the helplessness of a criminal ring before the combined onslaught
of an ex-manicurist and a disillusioned detective. Miss Joan
Bennett's portrayal of the Broadwayese cuticle-groom suggests that
she has not been around the White Light district for years, and
Mr. Grant, whose chief crime-detecting asset would seem to be his
knowledge of ventriloquism, should be restored promptly to the
rank of patrolman. Set it down as a flimsy and inadequate excuse
to visit the Capitol.
My Two Cent's Worth
by Debbie Dunlap
I just watched "Big Brown Eyes" again for the first time in several years. As I popped it into the VCR, I was wondering if I'd still be a
little in awe of it. If the attraction, that spurred me to type out the entire movie dialogue, was still there. It was. The movie is so lame, but watching Cary's initial foray into
screwball comedy is priceless. In colleges & universities that study movie making, I think this film should be on the syllabus of any class studying screwball. Cary Grant was THE
screwball actor of that era; what a wonderful contrast to compare "The Awful Truth" with "Big Brown Eyes."
Had Rosalind Russell, Katharine Hepburn or Jean Arthur been his co-star, I think this movie would have drawn much more attention. Joan Bennett just doesn't
bring the female lead to life like one of these other actresses could. Where Joan Bennett tries to be a smart aleck, Russell would have made it work. Where Joan Bennett tries to put her man in
his place, Hepburn would have made it work. Jean Arthur would have brought a zany sense of down-to-earth that Bennett just never pulls off. Both Hepburn & Arthur could have made
Eve's character tough, but vulnerable. Joan Bennett just never quite pulls it off. I always seem to know that she's an actress playing a part.
Cary's acting in his early movies demanded a strong co-star. I think "Wings in the Dark" is a good example. He has a strong male lead, but
Myrna Loy was the better actor. Had a lesser actress been in this movie, it would have been absolute drudgery. Cary still hadn't quite learned enough of the craft to carry the movie
himself, as he so obviously did in later years.
Although I believe that Cary's performance in BBE was much improved when compared to his performance in WitD, there are still times when he seems to be
playing his part, and not becoming the character. I think ... I think he was working so hard at figuring out how to be the character that he doesn't quite become comfortable enough to be the
character. Does that make sense? Because of this and Bennett's glaring deficiencies, I never quite come to the point where I'm drawn into "Big Brown Eyes." I think the reason for
the fascination with this movie is precisely that I never become involved in it. Probably because I'd seen so many consummate Cary Grant screwball performances before I'd ever found this movie, to me
it's a study in how a CG screwball comedy didn't work. Better yet, this movie is proof that Cary Grant had to work at his craft. How many times do we hear that Cary made it look
effortless? Only Cary's dramatic roles garnered him Oscar nominations. Watching "Big Brown Eyes" is a lesson in how difficult comedy is. Specifically, how once upon a time, Cary
didn't quite have it down pat.
The timing is horrendous, and I don't know if it's Cary who doesn't have it, or Bennett. (Mostly Bennett.) But the lines are great.
Eve: I was just saying how mad Dan was at Cortig.
He thinks they should have given him the chair.
But I don't.
He doesn't deserve a chair.
They oughta fry him standing up.
The physical comedy has so much potential. Where he was funny in "Kiss & Make Up" and "Ladies Should Listen," the physical side of
his comedy had yet to emerge. This is his very first screwball comedy! "The Awful Truth" may claim ownership to this title, but I deny their claim. TAT may be his first
successful screwball comedy, but BBE was his first. It may not be good, but it was his first.
Which makes me think that Cary ought to have kissed Leo McCarey's feet. It's a well known bit of trivia that Cary wanted out of his
contract during the filming of "The Awful Truth." He felt self-conscious about playing the part so "over the top." But I think stretching to the point of being
uncomfortable broke through whatever self-imposed physical barriers Cary had, and gave him the confidence to take his comedy wherever it needed to go in later comedies. Could "Bringing Up
Baby" have worked if Cary had been more conservative in his physical comedy? It is interesting to note that Cary hated his performance in "Arsenic & Old Lace" for exactly the same
reason. He felt he'd been asked to take his character to the point of ridiculousness. How many count A&OL as one of their favorite CG flicks? I think Cary Grant shone brighter than any
other star, simply because he was remarkable when he was ridiculous. Because so very, very few actors could be act ridiculous and not appear to be ridiculous.
DAILY TRIBUNE Film Review - June 2, 1936
- by Mae Tinée
- submitted by Renee Klish
Cary Grant Do Good Job Here
Eyes" Offers Money's Worth
"Big Brown Eyes" offers
the demanding movie fan considerable for his money.
Primarily, the piece is gay,
romantic comedy. But there come times when it takes itself
very, very seriously, even to the point of plunging into a murder
mystery. So - you see, it is interesting - like a woman of
many moods. Charming, provocative - disturbing.
The heroine, Eve Fallon, is a hotel
barber shop manicure, much in love with Detective Danny Barr, whom
she keeps up the air - and right down to earth at the same
time. Which may sound impossible - but Eve, nevertheless,
accomplishes the feat.
As Danny investigates a jewel
theft, Eve becomes convinced that his interest in the robberee - a
fluttery Mrs. Cole - is warmer than duty demands. Which
notion on her part inspires a lot of action of one sort . . .
Well - Eve finds herself out of a
job . . . And, just like that - obtains one of those movie
conscious newspaper positions where, though she's had no
experience at all, she becomes, in parlance of the streets, the
whole cheese, with private office, dictograph, etc., the while
editors hang on her words and presses stutter, or stop completely,
until her stuff is in . . .
You find this remarkable young
woman then hot on the trail of suspects in a child murder case . .
. Her suspicions fasten on a certain racketeer - and she tips off
her Danny. . .
A farce of a trial, in which
witnesses and jury are dominated by gangster influence, results in
Eve and Danny again shaking the dust of unwanted jobs from their
agile feet. And now - that they're on their own and
responsible to noBUDda - things start to break in earnest . . .
It's all very exciting, and if you don't get all keyed up along
about here, why there must be something wrong with the adrenalin.
Joan Bennett gives a highly
satisfactory account of herself as the quick-thinking,
wise-cracking heroine. Cary Grant is aces as Danny - who,
besides being a supercop, is no slouch as a ventriloquist.
Walter Pidgeon is a smooth and handsome article as a two-timing
insurance detective. Bright bits are turned in by Marjoric
Gateson and Isabel Jewell. Other players are capable.
So was the director.
A good little show - even if you
can't always believe it.
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