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Come and Get It

Come and Get it (1936) is billed as being co-directed by Howard Hawks and William Wyler — directors of decidedly disparate sensibilities. The word is that Hawks was either frustrated with the film's producer Samuel Goldwyn, or was so dissatisfied with the project that William Wyler came in to finish it, working from Hawks' notes (supposedly shooting only 800 feet of film), adding the final ten minutes. It's also easy to see why Hawks became so disenchanted. The film follows Bernard 'Barney' Glascow (Edward Arnold), a logger who enjoys the rough-and-tumble lifestyle and pushes his men hard, but who also equally rewards them for their work. He's got a best friend in the Swede Swan Bostrom (the incomparable Walter Brennan), and after a hard logging, the two and their crew go to a bar. It's here where Barney meets Lotta Morgan (Frances Farmer), and the film comes to roaring life when Barney quickly romances Lotta, and they — along with the Swede — have to fight their way out of the bar by using serving trays as Frisbees. For the opening 30 minutes the film has that Hawksian feel of manly men, the independent but sexual women who love them, and the robust atmosphere of earned bravado. Hawks even manages to make Arnold an appealing sexual figure. So it's more the pity that the rest of the movie is a wash. Barney marries a wealthy woman and assures his good fortune, and the script cuts to 20 years later, where Barney now has an adult son Richard (Joel McCrea) and daughter (Andrea Lees) — both of independent minds — while Swan married Lotta, who died in the interim, has a daughter also named Lotta (Farmer, again). On a trip to visit Swan, Barney decides to take care of the new Lotta and her family because he's fallen for the progeny of the woman he always loved, while Richard romances Lotta as well. This leads to an unbalanced romantic triangle where father and son must compete for Lotta's affections. The 1982 Frances Farmer biopic Frances suggested all directors had contempt for Farmer, but to dispel that misnomer Howard Hawks always claimed that she was the best actress he ever worked with. And she's a game leading lady for him. Unfortunately Hawks is more comfortable in the sweaty opening than the stuffy suits of the second half. By turning the focus to the competitive father and son, Come and Get It feels like a rough draft for his later masterpiece Red River (1948). But there are moments in this misfire: Richard and Lotta have an amusing taffy-pull sequence, this is Farmer's best role in her all-too-short career, and Brennan is infinitely watchable. MGM presents the film in full-frame (1.33:1) from a decent source-print, with the original monaural audio in Dolby Digital 2.0. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.
—DSH



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