Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk (1935)
Director William Beaudine was at the height of his career when he, along with Raoul Walsh and Allan Dwan, answered a call from Great Britain’s film studios to help bolster their industry by making pictures there. At the time he was commanding $2,000 per week on the strength of Mary Pickford hits like Little Annie Rooney (1925) and Sparrows (1926). Most of the films he made for studios like British International Pictures and Teddington Studios (Warner Bros.’ British division) were “quota quickies,” low-budget films designed to satisfy a government requirement at that time that 20 percent of all films shown in British theaters be produced there. His customary efficiency fit well within the low-budget model, but he also brought the films the same visual grace that had distinguished his more famous features.
In Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk, Paul Graetz stars as Jake Cohen, a department store owner who takes a personal interest in his customers and employees. When his more profit-oriented sons push him out of the business, he takes to the road to get back in touch with the people for whom he had created his business empire. Critics have compared those later scenes favorably to his creation of the rural atmosphere for Sparrows.
The move to England produced some distinctive films for Beaudine, but it ultimately hurt his career. When he returned to the U.S. in 1937, he found himself largely forgotten. Moreover, the British tax laws and other financial problems forced him to turn to poverty row productions, including the Bowery Boys films at Monogram. Fortunately, later critics have re-evaluated his work, just as they have with England’s quota quickies, finding new audiences for films like Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk.
d. William Beaudine, 80 minutes, 35mm
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Classics and Park Circus LLC. Print preserved by the Library of Congress