Lucky Devils (1933)

Toronto Film Society presented Lucky Devils (1933) on Monday, August 15, 1983 in a double bill with La Nuit Americaine as part of the Season 36 Summer Series, Programme 8.

Production Company: RKO.  Executive Producer: David O. Selznick.  Associate Producer: Merian C. Cooper.  Director: Ralph Ince.  Story: Casey Robinson and Bob Rose.  Adaptors: Agnes Christine Johnson and Ben Markson.  Art Director: Van Nest Polglase.  Sound: Earl A. WAlcott.  Camera: J. Roy Hunt.  Editor: Jack Kitchin.

Cast:  William Boyd (Skipper), Dorothy Wilson (Fran), William Gargan (Bob), Rosco Ates (Gabby), William Bakewell (Slugger), Bruce Cabot (Happy), Creighton Chaney {Lon Chaney, Jr.}  (Frankie), Bob Rose (Rusty), Julie Haydon (Doris), Betty Furness (Ginger), Phyllis Fraser (Midget), Sylvia Picker (Toots), Edwin Stanley (Spence), Charles Gillette (Cameraman), Gladden James (Neville), Alan Roscoe (Director).

Lucky Devils deals with the group of men who replace the “stars” when the scene calls for any dangerous bit of action  The films shows the stuntmen as reckless fellows at work in outdoor thrillers and in gangster pictures, standing atop burning buildings, crashing automobiles into shop windows, hurtling down staircases and through skylights, and otherwise risking their necks for $50.00 a day and up.  They are a group who stick close to each other, and let very few outsiders into it.

Originally considered a ‘B’ picture, Lucky Devils was made to take advantage of leftover footage from The Lost Squadron, a picture made the previous year.  But the film has emerged as a more satisfying production, more realistic in its presentation, than its predecessor.  The film is not populated by glamorous Hollywood types or wild directors.  It concentrates on the concerns of real people in real stunting situations.  It focuses on the lack of security, both financial and physical that was a part of every stuntman’s existence.  Although the theme that marriage and stunt work do not mix, because a man loses his fine edge of recklessness, does not hold up to-day.  The idea that stunt work was a dangerous profession was very well taken.  Most people in the thirties (as well s a lot of people today) did not realize how close to death and/or serious injury these men came.

Lucky Devils is a film that has a lot of similarities to stunt films of today, like Hooper and The Stunt Man.  In fact, the latter owes a lot to Lucky Devils, especially in the opening sequence.

The director, Ralph Ince, handles the opening shot of a bank hold-up in progress with zest and speed.  Police swarm in, guns blaze, bodies fall off ledges, as the camera draws back to reveal that it is only a motion picture in progress.

The picture was based on a story co-authored by stunt man Bob Rose, who doubled for many actors in his time.

Notes by Fred Cohen

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