Monday, June 22, 2009


Aline MacMahon and her younger sister Ann Dvorak run a motor inn/diner out in the California desert, and they keep pretty busy what with pumping gas, repairing cars, flipping burgers, and renting overnight rooms. First we see Jane Darwell and Edgar Kennedy pushing their out-of-gas car in for a fill-up, followed by two girls hitchhiking to find fame in Hollywood. Then a chauffeur (Frank McHugh) arrives with two carefree playgirl types (Glenda Farrell and Ruth Donnelly); his car needs a minor repair, but he talks MacMahon into taking her time so they'll have to spend the night--and he can get a break from their demands. Most importantly, two well-dressed men (Preston Foster and Lyle Talbot) stop by; we find out they are bank robbers on the run after having accidentally killed a cashier, and coincidentally, Foster is an ex-boyfriend of MacMahon's—turns out she had a wild past before settling down, which is why she's discouraging Dvorak from stepping out with a local no-goodnik (Theordore Newton). Foster seduces MacMahon, Dvorak sneaks out with Newton, and Talbot tries to break into a safe containing the rich women's gems. The various outcomes, some quite surprising, are only possible because this is a pre-Code movie.

The unexpected ending is one pleasure of this movie, but the primary one is in seeing members of the Warner Brothers B-movie repertory company do what they're good at. MacMahon (pictured) does her usual starchy but wise bit, which makes her momentary heat with Foster all the more surprising. Talbot is handsome, Dvorak is innocent, McHugh is a wiseacre, Farrell is sexy, and Donnelly is funny. Foster, who I'm used to seeing in more heroic roles, is good as the slick bad guy who isn't quite as slick as he thinks. Short and quite watchable in the 30's Warners style. [TCM]

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