Trapped By Television (1936)

Trapped By Television (1936)Electrifying entertainment…a leap ahead of tomorrow…as science exposes “the perfect racket!”

A poor young inventor struggles to complete his television device until he is befriended by the debt collector who comes to repossess the equipment.

Good natured, likeable comedy based around the amazing new world of television. Although regular broadcasting had yet to begin, the new invention was creating a lot of buzz by the mid-1930s and was used as a gimmick in several films such as the Bela Lugosi mystery ‘Murder By Television’ (1935). It also started appearing in movie serials like ‘Flash Gordon’ (1936), although Planet Mongo seemed a tad more technically advanced than earth.

Here it serves as a macguffin to drive the action as naive brainiac Lyle Talbot and his revolutionary device come under threat from gangsters who wish to sell their own version to a bumbling broadcast executive. There’s a little bit of industrial espionage, romance, a football game, a car chase and some fisticuffs to sweeten the pot but the film never really breaks into too much of a sweat.

Trapped_By_Television_(1936)

‘Going over for it’ am I? We’ll just see about that, Mr. Spade…

The scenario is fairly predictable but Nat Pendelton does provide some decent comic relief as the rough and ready bill collector: ‘Did I tell you, science was my hobby?’ More importantly, the female lead is taken by Mary Astor, an actress who could make the dullest script shine with her star quality and wonderful timing. She doesn’t get a lot an awful lot to work with here but of course turns in an effortless performance that’s the best thing in the film and the notion of two women running their own business (albeit unsuccessfully) is pleasingly ahead of its time.

Proceedings are amiable, don’t overstay their welcome and were probably originally exhibited as the bottom half of a double bill with a more prestigious feature. It’s an acceptable time passer, even if it doesn’t make a very strong impression.

Talbot had a long career as a supporting player, which included lots of television and playing authority figures in Ed Wood movies! Astor was quite notorious back in the day and the fact that she enjoyed such a successful career and immense popularity when she was rarely out of the scandal sheets is a testament both to her strength of character and sheer talent. She wrote two books about her life – one personal and one professional – and I can unreservedly recommend both. In later life, after retiring from acting, she wrote a number of outspoken novels for women on controversial subjects. No surprise there, then.

Buy ‘Trapped By Television’ here

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