Silent Stars in a Poverty Row Talkie
"Tee" | LA | 03/15/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"BY APPOINTMENT ONLY is a fairly interesting little drama from 1933 from "poverty row" studio, Invincible Pictures. This low-budger effort stars a number of fairly well-known names from the silent era, Lew Cody, Aileen Pringle, Sally O'Neil, Marceline Day, and Claire McDowell.
Cody stars as a middle-aged doctor whose highly successful practice consists mainly of coddling rich hypochrondriacs, though he does charity work on the side. When a poor woman dies in his office waiting to be seen, Cody takes it upon himself to be the ward of her teenaged daughter (O'Neil) which mainly consists of mainly paying for her pricey boarding school while he is away for several years in Europe working on a distingushed research project. Upon his return three years later, he is startled to find the young girl has grown into a young woman now eighteen and upset to find her engaged to a young man (Edward Morgan) he knows has a skeleton in his closet. Also anxious is Cody's longtime fiancee Aileen Pringle, who suspects his feelings for the young woman might be more than paternal.
Although a "pre-code", it's not particularly racy other than it's rather audacious plot of a guardian having latent feelings toward his ward. The movie is slightly frank in that Morgan has had sexual relations with Pauline Garon but it's left to the viewer to decide if she is pregnant and will have his illegitimate child, is pregnant and will have an abortion, or has caught a disease from him.
The film print has many defects and the predictable scratches and repaired broken film bits that jump the film on occasion, picture quality is generally good but far from excellent. The cover photos of Cody and O'Neil seem from other productions (a much earlier one from Cody) but the other photos on the sleeve are from the film.
Lew Cody (1884-1934) at this stage in his life is not quite a matinee idol, rather plump and resembling a cross between Gale Gordon and the older Walt Disney, he would pass away only one year later at age 49. Sally O'Neil (1908-1968) was a tiny little actress who specialized in child-women, even with her petiteness she's a bit too old to be credible as the 14-year-old in the beginning and her face appears to have been quite a white makeup to make her seem younger, she is however very appealing as the gentle young girl whose courteous yet somber voice neverthless vividly conveys an early life of defeat. Aileen Pringle (1895-1989) has little to do despite her second billing as Cody's somewhat pretentious and controlling, yet not unfeeling, fiancee. This little soap opera doesn't start too well but it does get better as it progresses, and it should be of some interest to those who enjoy poverty row productions of the 1930's and seeing silent stars in talkies."