DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews
 
ARE YOU LISTENING? (director: Harry Beaumont; screenwriters: Dwight Taylor/based on the novel by J.P. McEvoy; cinematographer: Harold Rosson; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: William Axt; cast: William Haines (Bill Grimes),  Madge Evans (Laura O'Neil), Anita Page (Sally O'Neill),  Neil Hamilton (Jack Clayton), Wallace Ford (Larry Barnes), Karen Morley (Alice Grimes), Don Novise (Singer's Voice), Joan Marsh (Honey O'Neil), Jean Hersholt (George Wagner), John Miljan (Ted Russell), Murray Kinnell (Carson), Charley Grapewin (Pierce), Hank Mann (Hank-sound effects man), Frank Whitlock (Radio Announcer), Hattie McDaniel (Singer); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; MGM; 1932-B/W)

"A bittersweet Depression-era pre-code drama about the misfortunes of a radio continuity writer."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A bittersweet Depression-era pre-code drama, with some lame attempts at comedy, about the misfortunes of a radio continuity writer Bill Grimes (Bill Haines). It's directed with sympathy for the regular folks who work in radio by Harry Beaumont ("Made on Broadway"/"Maisie Goes to Reno"). Writer Dwight Taylor adapts it from the novel by J.P. McEvoy. It tells us a lot about the radio business back in the day as an emerging media competition to both newspapers and the movies. Incidentally, its title, "Are you listening?", was the catchphrase of early-1930s radio personality Tony Wons.

Bill Grimes is locked into a loveless marriage the last three years to the nagging housewife Alice (
Karen Morley). He wants a divorce, but Alice will only do so if he earns enough to give her $100 a week in alimony. Meanwhile Bill and the radio actress from his NYC station Laura O'Neil (Madge Evans) are madly in love and openly see each other. Madge shares a cramped room with her wilder younger sister Sally (Anita Page), and they are soon joined by their naive baby sister Honey (Joan Marsh).

When the radio boss (
Murray Kinnell) fires Bill for losing a plumbing account, he moves out to take an apartment in a dumpy hotel and no longer sees Madge. On Christmas Eve Alice visits him in his hotel room demanding money he doesn't have and in anger he gives her a shove. She dies when her head hits the wall. Madge goes to the hotel to be with Bill, and they run away together to Miami. The sleazy editor of the The Morning Tab, Ted Russell (John Miljan), finds out where Madge and Bill  are hiding and promises to get them a lawyer.  Instead he calls the cops and goes into a rant on the air about Bill's guilt, after Bill on the air is tricked into confessing about the accidental murder. Bill is thereby charged with manslaughter and the last shot is of Bill waving goodbye to Madge as he is taken by train to serve a 3-year stretch.

After a promising start to his career, Bill Haines was in a few flops and the studio didn't use him again, supposedly unhappy with his openly gay lifestyle. Bill followed his acting career as an interior designer.

The film had a heart and told a credible story, one that was well-acted by a capable cast.

REVIEWED ON 7/29/2018       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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