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MGM. 86 minutes.
US release: 11/23/29.
DVD release: 2/21/12 from the Warner Archive Collection.
Cast: Joan Crawford (as "Alice 'Bingo' Dowling"), Robert Montgomery, Ernest Torrence, Holmes Herbert, John Miljan, Gwen Lee, Edward Nugent, Don Terry, Gertrude Astor, Milton Farney, Lloyd Ingram, Grace Cunard, Tom O'Brien, Wilson Benge.
Credits: From the story by Charles E. Scroggins. Adaptation: Sylvia Thalberg, Frank Butler. Dialogue: Willard Mack. Director: Jack Conway. Camera: Oliver Marsh. Titles: Lucile Newmark. Editors: William Gray, Charles Hockberg.
Notes: Aside from her singing in Hollywood Revue of 1929, this is Joan's first appearance in a sound film. MGM also released a fully silent version of Untamed, presumably because all theaters were not yet outfitted for sound.
Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times
November 30, 1929
Although "Untamed," the talking film now sojourning at the Capitol, possesses scenes that are supposed to be on the fringe of a jungle, and others aboard ship and in New York, this pictorial effusion never really appears to get outside the walls of a Hollywood studio. It does wander, however, from anything real, and the trite dialogue and vacillating natures of some of the persons involved make one shudder to think to what queer lengths producers can go with their relatively new vocalized toy.
The tale is concerned chiefly with the activities, romantic and pugilistic, of a girl who has been brought up in a wild section of South America. The varied glimpses are based on a story by Charles E. Scroggins, and while the main idea is not new, it is one with rich possibilities. Four years ago Robert T. Kane made an excellent comedy from Arthur Stringer's yarn, "The Wilderness Woman," a similar theme; but this current contribution has none of the ready wit or the human touches of the old silent film. Only unconscious humor is furnished by forced incidents, such as a fist fight at a dance between two men, with women urging on their respective favorites; a rough-and-tumble encounter between two girls, and a silly shooting episode.
Joan Crawford portrays the wild young creature, known as Bingo Dowling. Miss Crawford has a good voice, but she never strikes one as a girl who has been away from civilization for most of her life. There are moments when the fault is with Miss Crawford, and then there are instances where one is impelled to sympathize with her because of her lines. Robert Montgomery as Andrew McAllister, the romantic male of this adventure, is called upon to overdo the words "sweet" and "love," besides assertions that are seldom convincing.
Bingo, who is traveling with two middle-aged men she calls "Uncle Ben" and "Uncle Howard," falls in love with McAllister the instant she sets eyes upon him aboard a vessel bound for this city. She at once resents a fellow-passenger, Mrs. Mason, calling him "dear boy." And not long afterward Bingo, who in moments of anger threatens to "sock" on the nose offending persons, actually does attack Mrs. Mason.
McAllister is one of those noble young men who would never think of marrying wealth so long as he has none of this world's goods himself. Bingo has the million or so derived from her father's oil wells. McAllister goes to the parties given by Bingo in New York and he admires Bingo in the latest creations purchased in Fifth Avenue shops, but he can't consider marriage until he has found work and earns enough to keep a wife!
"Uncle Ben," splendidly played by Ernest Torrence, would really like to get rid of McAllister, for he has a notion that "Uncle Howard" is himself smitten with Bingo. Youth, however, in motion pictures as well as in sport, has a habit of being served: so through his clumsy tactics. "Uncle Ben" is actually responsible both for McAllister being shot in the shoulder by the wild maiden and then his ending the picture in her arms, certain to be her husband within the next few days.
Three or four songs are delivered in this film by Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery. The melodies are among the unessentials.
The Brooklyn Eagle (1929):
If Untamed does little else for Miss Crawford, it proves that she is an actress for whom the microphone should hold no fear. Her diction is clear and unaffected, and while there is nothing in the lines that offers her opportunity for exceptional acting, she manages to make the impulsive heroine of the story somewhat more credible than the part deserves.
Pierre de Rohan in the New York Morning Telegraph (1929):
Miss Crawford seems more than a little ill-at-ease in the trappings of a jungle hoyden and only slightly more comfortable in the equally alien antics of a Manhattan debutante. She never, therefore, makes her role seem real and I doubt whether any other actress could.
If you've seen Untamed and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Feel free to include a star-rating (with 5 stars the best), as well as a photo of yourself to accompany your review and any of your favorite lines from the film.
Jon Denson (January 2006)
Rating: of 5
This film should definitely lay to rest claims that Crawford could not play comedy--she is hilarious, cute, and laugh-out-loud funny throughout! In her first "talky," Crawford plays Bingo, a girl brought up in South America who inherits three million dollars when her dad dies. She moves to NYC by cruise ship, and meets a young man played by Robert Montgomery (in his first role as leading man!).
Since both Crawford and Montgomery were very young when the film was made, it is a joy to watch. All the actors give spirited performances; Crawford and Montgomery are incredibly cute together, and are funnier than I have seen them in any other film! The theme song from the film, "Chant of the Jungle" (sung by Joan Crawford in the film), was a hit in 1929, when the film was made, and you'll be sure to get it stuck in your head even after the movie is over.
The plot of the film was also quite good, surprisingly. Robert Montgomery and Crawford's characters love each other, but because she is rich and he has little money, he is afraid to marry her because of what people might think. Bingo's uncle Ben also discourages the relationship and offers Montgomery money to leave her! Of course, everything goes astray and uncle Ben's plans fall through in a hilarious fashion. The film offers a fairly intelligent view of such a situation, as well.
Definitely a treat for classic film fans! This gem hopefully will continue to sparkle for a long time, with more airings on TCM and video release!
Above: An MGM Untamed photo card displaying Untamed photo cards!
Above: San Francisco newspaper ads.
Below: Both sides of a bookmark from India.
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