The Time of Your Lifei is the cinematic originator of the Queers format, or that Jarmusch thing : "people in a bar". They're fascinatingly interesting characters and so different yet "so deeply human" and etcetera etcetera bla bla bla. Don't you know "that's life" yadda yadda and how almost-as-interesting yours must therefore be, for having seen this (plausibly, at least, I mean who's to know, rite ?). It's certainly a damn sight better than McCormick-ian tendentious nonsense a la The Public Enemyii, I'll give that much.
The production lists a nominal credit for William Saroyan (play written by), but considering it was produced specifically by Cagney's brother Willie's one-man-vehicle company (unexpectedly dubbed "Cagney Productions") and strategically placed James in the "Joseph T. (who observes people)" role... what can I say.iii It's a chesspiece in the larger game of "fuck the studios" Cagney was trying his best to play at the timeiv (while carefully minding the small thingsv). It's certainly a different sort of filmvi, and perhaps a worthy addition to the very arid, mostly empty fieldvii of the period. It also does something to suggest that Cagney's conventional typecast as a (fortuitously psychotic) gangster may have been trading on his second-best face, while a sort of Proustian nostalgic reminiscentia might've been truly his forte.
I don't think it's much of a film ; but then again I also don't think Proust-like is much of a genre. It works ok for some people, but those some people aren't the everyman, and certainly not the socialism byproductviii, American or otherwise.
I can't think of a reason to deliberately see this film, beyond taking poseurship very god damn seriously, or else being me.———
- 1948, by H.C. Potter, with James Cagney, his sister Jeanne, Willie Bendix etcetera (plus the obscure Reginald Beane pestering the piano). [↩]
- 1931, William A. Wellman, also starring Jean Harlow and Joan Blondell (fully dressed, both of 'em). Some of the worst garbage ever turned out by Fartsywood. [↩]
- Whoever's responsible for it (and I don't suspect H.C Potter at all) did a terrible job of hemming poor J. W. Howe in to the point they might've hired the dorks that shot Tangerine for about the same quality end product. The film looks indisputably cheap (even for a 1940s independent studio, a true superlative of poverty) and in all fairness falls down in pretty much every respect, whatever merits the originating play might've had (never that big of deal on the stage). [↩]
- The flop this turned into most likely convinced him to give up his "independence", in favour of going back to WB for White Heat, an incomparably prefferrable offering. [↩]
- As parochially-Midwestern / Ozarkish / Kentucky-mountain-feuds as one could ever get, the (male) Cagneys cut out most of the romancing of their sister by Wayne Morris originally filmed. Herp. [↩]
- There are no film actors alive today ; but back in the days they still had some, most of them did the "method" bullshit. Cagney doesn't do that here. His nonsensical and inconsequential character is constructed with a lot of skill that'd have merited some recognition were it better employed and applied. [↩]
- US cinema in the 40s had so far collected a whole heap-pile of mostly nothing at all. [↩]
- Marcel himself barely makes the last possible cutoff, and that by pushing up with his apparently mighty shoulders a curtain that had for all intents and purposes fallen twenty-odd years prior. Cagney's 1899 birthdate (not to mention birthplace) puts him squarely outside of even the possibility of anything like it.
Rats born in "systematic" sewers ain't ever got anything to reminisce with, let alone about. [↩]