Douglas Fairbanks Jr. made over 90 movies in his life, and three of them came out in 1931. That was a big year for the dashing son of swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks. In January, he was seen in Little Caesar, the iconic gangster film that made Edward G. Robinson a star. Fairbanks’ next two features from that year are nowhere near as well known and are finally on DVD thanks to Warner Archive.
In July 1931, Allan Dwan‘s Chances hit the big screen. Based on a novel by A. Hamilton Gibbs, the film centers on a love triangle during World War I. When brothers Jack (Fairbanks) and Tom (Anthony Bushell) are reunited with their childhood crush Molly (Rose Hobart) while on leave, they realize how she has grown into a strikingly beautiful woman.
Jack is a womanizer (as all Fairbanks characters must be), and Tom is more shy around women but has always carried a flame in his heart for Molly. Although Molly really loves Jack, he is conflicted. He loves her too, but he holds back so Tom can have her.
The war puts strains on their relationship. The brothers are allowed to serve in France together and when Tom learns that Molly really loves Jack, there’s a possibility that their lives could end with their brotherly bond broken.
Chances is a strange movie, in that it was clearly made as a prestigious project, but is so quick and short. Even in the 1930s, prestigious movies were usually much longer epics. While screenwriter Waldemar Young (The Unknown, Test Pilot) proves you can tell a sweeping romance in 72 minutes, the characters are so likable and tragic that you just want to spend more time with them.
Fairbanks gives one of his best performances for Dwan, who directed his father in Bound in Morocco and Robin Hood. And Dwan, who has an insane list of 407 directing credits, directs this film with hearty dedication. He finds the middle ground between sentimental romance and uncompromising war movie.
I Like Your Nerve hit theaters in September 1931. Directed by William C. McGann, the cinematographer on Fairbanks’ father’s The Mark of Zorro, this is the kind of film that would only exist in the pre-code era.
Fairbanks plays American playboy Larry O’Brien, who is touring through fictional Latin American counties. After getting thrown out of one country, he finds himself in another one. By chance, he happens to spot Diane (Loretta Young who is charming as always), whose stepfather, Areal Pacheco (Henry Kolker), is the Minister of Finance. Larry falls in love with Diane, who is engaged to the much older Clive (Edmund Breon). Larry learns of Areal embezzling $200,000 and uses it as blackmail in a convoluted plot to push Clive out of the way and marry Diane.
I Like Your Nerve is a fun film, even if it’s a little bit of a throwaway. There are no high ambitions here. It is just an attempt to keep audiences entertained for 62 minutes. Certainly the people who made this never imagined that we would be talking about it 87 years after it was made.
Both Chances and I Like Your Nerve finally came out on DVD this month thanks to the Warner Archive Collection. While it’s not surprising that I Like Your Nerve has fallen into obscurity, it is a little shocking that Chances is not considered one of Fairbanks Jr.’s best films. Perhaps it’s the brevity of the film, or the complete lack of star power around him, but it’s a good movie and one his fans should seek out. Rose Hobart also gives an enchanting performance as his co-star.
There are no extras on either disc.
Thanks to Warner Archive for providing these discs to review!