Monday, 19 January 2015

Over the Garden Wall (1934)
Bobby Howes & Marian Marsh
Recently reissued as part of the second volume Network DVD's series 'British Musicals of the 1930s', 'Over the Garden Wall' doesn't have a lot going for it. The story of Bunny (Bobby Howes) and Mary (Marian Marsh), who meet and fall in love whilst visiting their respective aunts who just happen to live next to each other, it has little to recommend. The main problem is that Howes is rather wet and certainly isn't convincing as a leading man in a musical comedy: He neither sings or dances well, is hardly romantic leading man material and doesn't show any talent for comedy. Added to that, the songs are instantly forgettable.
Bobby Howes
Had this been a vehicle for Stanley Lupino it would have been a different matter: Howes is supposed to be convincing as a romantic lead, with Lupino it would have simply been played for laughs, with the audience knowing it's ridiculous but not caring. When your leading man's only discernible talent is making shadow puppets of rabbits ...

... you soon realise this isn't going to be a rollercoaster ride of top quality comic song and dance.
Whilst Howes is the centre of my attack, I should mention that his aunt is played by Margret Bannerman an actress who was actually one year younger than Howes:
Bobby Howes & Margaret Bannerman
This age gap shows that he was simply too old for the role: Here's a man in his late thirties wooing a girl, Marsh, supposed to be seventeen. It's all a bit 'BBC in the 1970s' for my taste:
Bobby Howes & Marian Marsh

I won't be too harsh on Howes though, after all he does wear some nice suits:
Bobby Howes

Bobby Howes

Bobby Howes
The film does however have some historic points of interest, such as Stewart Granger making just his third on-screen appearance as a barman ...
Stewart Granger
 ... an appearance by Elstree railway station (handy for the studios) ...
... and a well choreographed dance sequence imitating the elaborate routines of Busby Berkeley:
Not only that but, this being a 1930s British film, the dancers seem to have forgotten to put on their skirts:
Here's who else to look out for:
Freddie Watts & Bertha Belmore
Freddie Watts & Viola Lyel

Syd Crossley
If I haven't put you off, it's currently available on Volume 2 of 'British Musicals of the 1930s':

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