Thursday, February 12, 2009


A mild screwball comedy in the Thin Man vein; not bad considering it's missing the Thin Man's best assets, William Powell and Myrna Loy. Here, Melvyn Douglas is a DA's assistant who has quit his job to start his own detective agency, though as the film begins, he is in the process of throwing out his secretary (Rita Hayworth with about a line and a half of dialogue) and giving up the failing business. His wife, Joan Blondell, decides to make a go of it herself (behind his back) when Mary Astor, a high society wife, comes in with a case: she wants a family friend followed because she may be carrying on with Astor's husband despite having her own fiancĂ©. Blondell (accompanied her clueless husband) goes to the Skyline Club that night to observe the group. After some slapstick shenanigans at the club, which involve club owner and notorious gambler Jerome Cowan, Astor’s husband winds up dead, Douglas finds out what his wife is up to, and the two spend the rest of the film working with and against each other trying to find the villain. A few more tangled relationships (and one more corpse) come to light before everything is cleared up. Blondell (pictured above) is better than her material here, and pretty much is the main reason for watching, though oddly she did not appear in next year's sequel, THERE'S THAT WOMAN AGAIN. In addition to the nightclub scene, another highlight of the film is the police grilling of Blondell, who stands up to hours of good cop/bad cop posturing, bright lights in the face, and a deliberately annoying squeak in a chair better than the police do. Douglas is his usual bland self, not bad but not memorable; Astor, a couple of years before she would revive her career with MALTESE FALCON, has another thankless society wife role. The solution to the mystery, as in the Thin Man films, is easy to guess and relatively unimportant, so how much you will enjoy this depends on your tolerance for B-level screwball battle-of-the-sexes humor. Virginia Bruce took Blondell's role in the sequel and, though I usually like her, I find it hard to believe that she could have topped Blondell. [TCM]

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