Saturday, September 27, 2003


At the tail end of the pre-Code era came this interesting film (a little comedy, a lot of drama, and even some music) about a girl who seems to be bad but is really almost too good to be true. Joan Crawford is the daughter of a cook to a rich family; Franchot Tone is the rich son, a lawyer. Tone sees Crawford after a couple of years away and, in a plotline used years later in SABRINA, is swept off his feet. The light tone of their flirtation is shattered when Crawford, helping to serve dinner, overhears Tone badmouth her boyfriend (Gene Raymond) who was fired by the family because of suspicion of thievery. Crawford goes bananas and berates Tone at the dinner table, then storms out, heading to New York City with Raymond. They get a cheap apartment by saying that they're married, and in a scene that probably wouldn't have been possible a few months later when the Production Code was being enforced, we see Crawford and Raymond spending the night together--at the fadeout, she's in bed and he's in a chair, but still...

The next day, they both land nightclub jobs; Crawford is a dancer in town, but Raymond hooks up with Esther Ralston and goes on tour with her, leaving Crawford alone in the big city. She winds up marrying chronically drunk millionaire Edward Arnold in order to save his life, then some time later, discovers that Raymond has been dumped by Ralston and is languishing sick and alone. More sacrifice and melodrama is ahead for all, including Tone who reenters the picture. That's a lot of plot for a 90 minute movie but it all comes off pretty well. Crawford is very good, as is Arnold, though his drunk routine gets old fast. Leo G. Carroll has a nice bit as Arnold's butler, who is antagonistic toward Crawford because he thinks she's just a golddigger, and Jean Dixon is a kindly landlady. Basically, everyone winds up a good egg at heart. I'm not a big fan of the fair-haired, passive Raymond, but he's OK here, and he gets a very nice scene (the aforementioned bedroom scene) where he plays the ukelele and serenades Crawford by singing "All I Do Is Dream of You." Another song, "After You've Gone," is sung by a nighclub band to the drunken Arnold. Ralston is remarkably modern looking. Tone is his usual bland self, mostly standing around looking shocked and angry. Overall, very entertaining; an underrated gem.

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