Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
Although William Dieterle had a long, distinguished career, I think he was at his best in his early Hollywood pictures. Movies like “Jewel Robbery” and “The Last Flight” have a light, off-the-cuff quality that leavens the director’s taste for Germanic pictorial effects. (Like many German film people of his generation, Dieterle studied under Max Reinhardt, the great — and aesthetically heavy-handed — theater impresario.) In the 1932 “Man Wanted,” Dieterle and cinematographer Gregg Toland seem intent on keeping the camera moving. Several shots are sneakily suggestive, such as a crane away from star Kay Francis that conveys her growing disillusionment, or a sudden glide out a window that underscores Francis’ doubts regarding her lover, played by a rather watery David Manners. There’s always the gleam of sex in Francis, but here her appetites are pressed right up against the surface, straining against the fabric of her rarefied manner and chichi accoutrements — she often looks as though she might swallow Manners whole in one swift bite. The plot is a sort of bedroom farce. Though it’s structurally a bit haphazard, and it’s always pretty clear whose bed each of the characters will end up in, screenwriter Charles Kenyon provides enough complications to keep you in a ticklish state of suspense; even the queenly Francis seems intermittently in doubt as to where she’ll land. Slim Pickens and Una Merkel are amusing comic seconds. At one point Merkel sings a little song, making no attempt to disguise the injured-quail wobbliness of her voice. It’s like a spoof of movie musicals.
- “Man Wanted,” along with “Jewel Robbery,” can be purchased in this nice collection of pre-code DVDs.
- “The Last Flight” is available via Warner’s burn-on-demand DVD line. It’s a rip-off of “The Sun Also Rises” — but better than any official adaptation that I’m aware of.
- “Man Wanted” and “Jewel Robbery” can also be streamed via Warner Archive Instant.
- Some elements of “Man Wanted” are reminiscent — in a half-formed, minor-league sort of way — of Ernst Lubitsch’s great “Trouble in Paradise,” which also stars Francis. It’s available on DVD through the Criterion Collection.