Paddy O'Day (1935)

Genres - Comedy, Musical  |   Run Time - 73 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Paddy O'Day is one of those movies that, in its own unassuming away, sings the praises of the Hollywood studio system, and all the louder eight decades on than it did when released in 1935. On the one hand, it's modestly budgeted "B" picture, intended to entertain -- which it apparently did with eminent success in its own time; on the other, it shows how good even a modest little B-picture could be. Jane Withers is a delight as the plucky little Irish girl, left orphaned as she arrives at Ellis Island with her little dog hidden in a basket -- she might never have been in Shirley Temple's league as a star attraction, but her tougher, less overtly, cloyingly "cute" persona wear better today; Withers played a kind of waif who was a bit ahead of her time. She's helped immeasurably by a script that is only overly sweet and sentimental at strategic moments, and which manages to work into its fabric subtexts about the role that immigrants -- legal and otherwise -- have played in building and revitalizing America, generation by generation, and a secondary story about repression and awakening, personal and sexual. The latter element, played out by the characters portrayed by Pinky Tomlin and 17-year-old Rita Cansino (later to change her name to Rita Hayworth), in her first acting role, is essential to resolving the arc of the story of Paddy, and nicely interwoven, with Cansino not only cutting a compelling figure as a dancer but doing quite well her first time out as an actress. Director Lewis Seiler handles the action, suspense, and comedy equally well, and the movie -- despite being made in Hollywood -- even manages to conjure up a decent (if not wholly convincing) New York City ambience where it needs to, through the careful intercutting of stock footage that's all the more precious today for its vision of the city circa 1935. Paddy O'Day is not a great picture by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a great account of the kind of good entertainment with a heart and some interesting messages that the best Hollywood studios could generate while running virtually on auto-pilot in the 1930's, and a fine showcase for Withers and a young Hayworth.