I’m off to see The Tailor Made Man at London’s Arts Theatre for the second time - not used to seeing musicals at all let alone more than once…it really is that good and you should go see it! So, time to put in some more “revision” on the main character: Mr William Haines one of Hollywood’s most likeable and brilliantly self-less performers.
These two light comedies were made back-to-back around the turn of 1928 and were both directed by Edward Sedgwick as vehicles for William Haines and rising co-star Joan Crawford.
Spring Fever is freed of this agenda and is a more straight-ahead hetero love story with wayward Billy being forced to submit to honest self-discipline to earn Joan’s love.
He works in a factory as under-ambitious shipping clerk, Jack Kelly, a live-for-the-moment guy who enjoys taking the mick out of his grumpy boss Mr Waters (the marvellously expressive George Fawcett) but who none-the-less keeps an eye out for his old pop (Bert Woodruff).
|George Fawcett and William Haines|
Jack and Mr Waters share one passion in common and that is for golf, “…invented by the Dutch in an effort to make the Scotch forget bagpipes…” Jack earns time at the local golf club as a reward for teaching Mr Waters some superior technique: it’s his big break and he intends to make the most of it.
|Allie meets Jack|
It’s a slightly unusual structure but one that, sure enough, will give the hero another chance and one involving a golfing dénouement intrinsically linked to his romantic fortunes!
Crawford and Haines have a real rapport and his spark and her intelligence make for a winning combination of unparalleled acting energy!
Tailor Made Man makes a lot of the Marion Davies link but they could have included Ms Crawford as well – she made five silent films with Haines and was a life-long friend. Then again, a take on Davies is one thing but Crawford has a whole lot more reputational baggage – it would be nice though to see this wide-eyed young woman reclaimed from some of the perceptions of her over-wrought later period.
|Joan the, young, woman|
Haines plays Brice Wayne a playful and frankly cocky young man who isn’t about to let military service interfere with his sense of humour.
|The man of a few faces...|
Betty turns out to be the daughter of an inn-keeper providing accommodation for recruits…had to work a female role in there somewhere.
In Haines’ earlier military vehicle, Tell it to the Marines (1926) Eleanor Boardman’s nurse was attached to the unit whilst there was also the strong lead offered by Lon Chaney who anchored the story and enabled Haines to bounce off at will.
|William Haines and William Bakewell|
Whilst it’s love at first sight for Tex, Betty’s not immediately impressed with the cut of Brice’s jib but we soon see that he’s not as selfish as he makes himself out to be - secretly paying off a fellow recruit’s debt.
|There's obviously something about a man in uniform...|
Eventually something has to give and Brice is kicked out of the team and also resolves to resign his commission… he doesn’t feel part of the Corps and the Corps is pretty much in agreement.
It is only the intervention of the loyal Tex which persuades them to give him one more chance…It’s the big Army vs. Navy game: can Brice redeem himself and win the hearts of his comrades as well as the disaffected Betty?
|The Big Game|
Both films are available from Warner Archives and Spring Fever in particular is worth seeking out. The print isn’t as good as West Point but is mostly decent: who wouldn’t want to play a round of “Fours” with Joan Crawford and William Haines.
The Tailor Made Man continues at the Arts Theatre until 8th April – go if you get the chance: hopefully it’ll soon get an extended run on Shaftsbury Avenue or maybe even Broadway! It deserves the chance not least for helping us remember the remarkable William Haines!