Friday, April 29, 2011

Joyce in Small Town Boy (1937)

In the same year that Joyce Compton made a splash supporting Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth, she marked time in the shoestring-budgeted Small Town Boy. Here Joyce plays a girl named Molly Summers, sweetie-pie girlfriend of Stuart Erwin's title character. Erwin's Henry Armstrong is a bumbling sap who works in an insurance office run by Joyce's domineering uncle (Clarence Wilson). He's also suffering through a turbulent home life with a nagging mother (Clara Blandick), indifferent dad (Jed Prouty) and ne'er-do-well brother (James Blakeley) - so it comes as a pleasant surprise when he finds a crisp thousand dollar bill under a stubborn horse's hoof. Erwin does the honest thing by advertising his find in the local paper, offering the bill to anyone who can supply the serial number. This causes even more trouble in the Erwin household, and when the bill is misplaced it leads to a comic chase all across town.

Scripted and directed by Glenn Tryon (father of actor-turned-novelist Tom Tryon), this is an unexceptional comedy with a few bright, appealing scenes that are reminiscent of the Hal Roach shorts of the same vintage. Erwin is once again typecast as a well-meaning doofus, one whose charm eventually wins us over. The scene with him dealing simultaneously with a screaming baby and an uncooperative horse is a gem. Compton's role is that of the usual "girlfriend" type, but she seems to relish playing a relatively smart woman for once. It's a cute, sweet little flick.

Small Town Boy received a DVD release from Alpha Home Video (a.k.a. in early 2011. As with other Alpha releases, the disc showcases a scratchy but watchable print with zero supplemental material - but at least the package has a nice cover design that uses elements from the original film poster (below). Buy at here.

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