Friday, May 22, 2015


During World War II, a particularly heinous racket was being run in which an unscrupulous woman would marry a GI in a hurry while he was in town on a furlough only to collect his domestic allotment money from the government. Even worse, she would marry several of them and collect all their allotments, splitting the money with the head of the racket. As the war winds down and fraudulent claims are being racked up, an army colonel who was a journalist before the war (Paul Kelly) is assigned the task of breaking the ring. Kelly poses as a reporter working on a story about the racket and is present in a bar to see one of the "allotment wives" get busted as she is about to lower the boom on a young GI. While there, Kelly meets Kay Francis, beauty salon owner and manager of a canteen for soldiers; unknown to Kelly, Francis is also the head of the racket. She cozies up to Kelly to keep him off her trail, but has to dirty her hands to deal with some internal problems in her organization. Soon, however, another big problem comes her way: her teenage daughter (Teala Loring) shows up fresh from boarding school and ready for some GI flirting of her own. Finally, Francis has to deal with the arrival of an old friend (Gertrude Michael) who's not above trying a little blackmail so she won't spill the beans about Francis' business to her daughter.

Some consider this a film noir, and I guess I can see that Francis (pictured with Michael) come off as a moderately conflicted central character, but it doesn't really have the look or feel of a noir. Instead it's a cross between a gangster film and a "women’s melodrama" like IMITATION OF LIFE or MILDRED PIERCE (without the glossy look or showy acting of PIERCE). This is one of Francis' last movies; by this time, she was at the Poverty Row studio Monogram, a long way from her high glamor days at Warners. But, in an ahead-of-her-times move, she struck a deal there not just to act, but produce. Her Monogram films look a little shabby, and they could be better scripted, but she keeps her head high and remains worth watching. Another plus is the presence of Otto Kruger as her trusted associate. Paul Kelly, though nominally the hero, doesn't have much to do, getting largely shunted aside when the daughter shows up. The title conceit is interesting, but even that (which apparently did happen occasionally) is almost forgotten by the end. Mostly for Kay Francis fans. [Netflix streaming]

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