Baby Face – Before and After

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     The first time I saw Baby Face was back in the 1990’s when it was released on VHS as part of the “Forbidden Hollywood series.” The film had a well deserved reputation for being one of the racier films to be ever made with sex, prostitution and plenty of morally corrupt individuals. Now on DVD as part of volume one in the Forbidden Hollywood collection, I finally got around to watching the disreputable pre-released version. Discovered back in 2005 in the Library of Congress film archives, this version was unearthed when a request was made for a new print to be struck. Mike Mashon, curator at the Motion Picture Division of the Library of Congress, received a print that was struck from the original camera negative, however; he was told there was a dup negative that was about five minutes longer. Intrigued, Mashon requested a print from the dup negative. After viewing the five-minute longer version, he knew he had struck gold. Typical for the times, Baby Face prior to its release was submitted to various state censor boards; in this case the powerful New York State Board of Censors and was rejected. Without the approval of the State Board, Warner Brothers knew the film would never play in the major New York City market. Subsequently, the film was edited removing the Boards objectionable scenes. The recut film was released and opened at the Strand Theater in New York to mixed reviews.

   babyface-intro1 In viewing both versions, the dramatic changes are significant enough to change the tone,. The pre-released version being darker and certainly more sordid. Barbara Stanwyck is Lily, a young woman who is pimped by her own father to the slimy characters who frequent his Erie, Pa. speakeasy. This is explicitly shown in the uncut version where a coarse local politician pays dear old Dad hard cash to spend some quality time with Lily. When the politician fondles Lily’s leg, she pours hot coffee on him. Next, he crudely grabs her breasts and Lily retaliates by grabbing a beer bottle hitting him squarely on the head. In the officially released version, this scene was cut dramatically. No cash exchanges hands between Dad and the politician; the fondling of Lily’s leg is shorter and there is no groping of her breasts. In other scenes, dialogue was changed or cut to meet the censors’ requirements. When her father tells her she can’t talk to him so rudely Lily goes on a tirade about “What a swell start you gave me….” She goes on about him being a lousy father and about all the rotten lousy men of which he was the lowest. What was cut from the released version of this rant is a line about Dad pimping her out at the age of 14! baby-face-vhs2

    Soon after, her father is killed when his still accidentally blows up. A local cobbler, who in the original version comes across as more of a father figure, tells her to seek her fortune by going to New York. He tells her a beautiful young woman like her can get anything she wants, but she must remember there is a right and wrong way to go about getting ahead in the world. In the pre-censored version, the cobbler’s advice is not as fatherly as he encourages her to read Nietzshe’s Thoughts out of Season and to “Crush out all sentiment.”  He tells her, a beautiful young woman like her can get anything because she has the power over men. “Use men, don’t let them use you”, he advises her. He goes on to say that she must be the master and not the slave. Use men to get the things she wants. Like Lily, this version of the film follows Nietzsche’s advice and crushes out any and all sentiment.

 .    Lily puts the cobbler’s advice to quick use when she hops a freight train with her friend and helper, Chico (Theresa Harris). Caught by a railroad inspector, Lily using the new found power of her body, seduces him as they ride the rails. In New York, Lily, with no work skills nor any education, seeks to get a job at the Gotham Trust Co. A personnel clerk asks her if she has any experience to which she replies “Plenty” with a knowing smirk. Telling Lily there are no jobs available she proposes they could work something out as she makes her way into the bosses empty office. The clerk follows closing the door behind him. Lily climbs to the top as she sleeps her way from the filing room, to the Mortgage Department to Accounting. It’s in the Accounting Department where she meets Ned Stevens (Donald Cook) who is engaged to Ann Carter (Margaret Lindsay) who is the daughter of bank head J.P. Carter or at least he is until Lily becomes responsible for breaking up the romance. Stevens is so hooked on Lily that when he finds his future-father-in-law Carter in Lily’s bedroom, he shoots him and commits suicide. Unperturbed by the violence, Lily nonchalantly calls the police telling them there has been an “accident.”

 babyface1   At this point, with all scandals Lily has caused she is sent off to the Paris branch of the Bank. This seems somewhat ludicrous. Why not just fire her? In Paris, she meets Courtland Trenholm (George Brent), who falls in love with Lily. They marry and Courtland showers Lily with jewelry, clothes and money.  They eventually come back to New York when the Bank and Trenholm are having financial problems. He ask Lily to return some of the gifts and securities he has given her, so he can pay his debt, she refuses. Despondent Courtland attempts suicide. As Courtland is taken away in an ambulance with Lily as his side, the censors strike one more time. They did not like the idea in the original version that Lily is shown as not “paying” for her sins. Warner’s was forced to tack on an artificial ending instead of the pre-censored version, which is more ambiguous and yet hints at the chance that Lily and Courtland will live happily ever after.000004115.JPG

    “Baby Face” is not a great film and is remembered today more for its place in film history as one of the most salacious films ever made. The discovery, in 2005 of the pre-released version only cemented its place in history. The first half of the film holds up well from a story point of view however, the second part of the film somewhat shaky. Still the film is a thrill to watch mainly due to Stanwyck who gives us an early version of one of her classic bold ice-cold characterizations that she would play to perfection later on in films like “Double Indemnity and even on TV in “The Big Valley.”  Also a pleasure is Theresa Harris as Chico, Lily’s helper and friend who hums the bluesy “St. Louis Woman” throughout the film, subliminally reminding us of Lily’s immoral roots. Her role is a rare example of a non-stereotypical black character that is treated as an equal, especially by Lily. Harris appeared in many well known films, generally, as a maid or waitress. Her impressive list  include Morocco, Horse Feathers, Gold Diggers of 1933, Hold Your Man, Jezebel”, The Women Phantom Lady, “Cat People,  The Dolly Sisters” “iracle on 34 Street, The Big Clock, The File on Thelma Jordan and Angel Face among many others. In the Jack Benny starring “uck Benny Rides Again, Harris had the opportunity to show off her singing and dancing talent in a duet with Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. Unfortunately, because of the times, this talented lady was never given the opportunity to climb the ladder to stardom.  Also, look for a young John Wayne is a minor role as one of Lily’s conquest and character actor Nat Pendleton in a small role as one of Lily’s Dad’s slimy speakeasy customers.  Pendleton appeared in over 100 films including Manhattan Melodrama, The Thin Man, Another Thin Man, Buck Privates and Buck Privates Come Home.

  babyfacex  The film was directed by Alfred E. Green, who started in the silent days and continued to work up until the late 1950’s.  Baby Face is probably his most famous or more fittingly his most infamous film. Most of Green’s output consisted of fairly routine programmers. The screenplay was written by Gene Markey and Kathryn Scola, based on a story by Darryl F. Zanuck, writing as Mark Canfield. Zanuck’s career with Warner’s Brothers would end shortly thereafter, only partially due to his part in creating tawdry films, “straight from the newspaper headlines”, such as Baby Face and probably more to do with disputes with Jack Warner and his own desires to run a studio. He would soon be a co-founder of Twentieth Century Pictures and a few years later, they would buyout Fox Pictures forming Twentieth Century Fox.

An interesting aside I came across is from an article by Molly Haskell in the New York Times on how so many pre-code heroines were called Lily or Lil. Beside Stanwyck’s Lily Powers, there’s Marlene Dietrich’s Shanghai Lil’ in Von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express, Jean Harlow as the gold-digging secretary Lil’ Andrews in Red Headed Woman and Lily, alias Mlle. Vautier in Trouble in Paradise. The character called Lady Lou played by Mae West in She Done Him Wrong was based on the play “Diamond Lil written by West. Paramount changed the character’s name in hopes of reducing the notoriety that preceded the play.

Jean Arthur on TCM

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To my delight, over the next month  Turner Classic Movies will be  showing some of Jean Arthur’s classic films.  More importantly, for me personally, some of the films I have never seen and am looking forward too.  Since I just wrote about “Easy Living” it is all very timely and I thought I share the upcoming flicks.

Jan 25th (10AM) – The Whole Town’s Talking – Dir. John Ford

Feb 2nd (12:45AM) – You Can’t Take it With You – Dir. Frank Capra

Feb. 3rd (8PM) – The More the Merrier – Dir. George Stevens

Feb. 6th (2PM) – Only Angels Have Wings – Dir. Howard Hawks

Feb. 9th (8PM) – The Devil in Miss Jones – Dir.  Sam Wood

Feb. 18th (9:15AM) Talk of the Town – Dir. George Stevens

Feb. 23rd (5:45PM) Arizona – Dir. Wesley Ruggles 

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Easy Living (1937) Mitchell Leisen

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     Wit. Such a simple word and yet it is so hard to come by in the movies or anywhere else for that matter. If you have been following my blog you will notice I have recently been watching a few films written and or directed by Preston Sturges. What has attracted me to Sturges is that simple three-letter word. His films are full of it. A rare commodity, only found in a handful of films by such filmmakers as Billy Wilder, Ernest Lubitsch and more recently Woody Allen. In a film world full of Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey movies, wit is at a premium.  While I have enjoyed a Will Ferrell or Jim Carrey movie here and there, it was certainly not for any kind of cleverness or wit.  

 easy-living-dvd   This all leads to a 1937 film written by Sturges and directed by Mitchell Leisen called “Easy Living.” A bright and charming movie bursting with tons of that three letter word. The film stars the superb comedic actress Jean Arthur as Mary Smith, a young woman who literally has a fur coat dropped on her head as she rides a double decker bus in Manhattan while on her way to work. This was a result of a fight between Bank Financier J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold) aka “The Bull of Wall Street” and his wife Jenny ((Mary Nash). Ball. Fed up with his wife’s extravagant spending J. B.throws Jenny’s latest purchase, a $58,000 fur coat, off the penthouse landing and right onto Mary’s head riding on the bus below. When they meet later in the film, Mary tries to give the coat back but Ball tells her to keep it, plus he buys her a new hat since her old one was crushed when the coat landed on her head. This incident sparks a series of  incidents that result in Mary being fired from her clerical job at a magazine. It also gives the impression to many people, especially to Mr. Louis Louis, the owner of the Hotel Louis, and in debt to Banker Ball, that Mary is Ball’s mistress. As a result, Louis Louis now invites Mary to live in the hotel penthouse free of charge, thinking Ball will surely not foreclose on his hotel if his mistress is living there. Before she knows it, Mary is being offered free cars and jewelry from other customers indebted to Ball. Essentially, still broke and no food in her penthouse kitchen, Mary goes to the Automat diner for a cheap meal. Here’s she meets John Ball Jr. (Ray Milland) who not wanting to live off his father’s money is working at the Automat. Mary is unaware of John Jr.’s background and thinks of him as just another poor working Joe. When John spots Mary eating very little, he attempts to give her some free food and is caught by the store security. A free for all breaks out when Ball Jr. and the security guard get into a tussle.  Without giving too much more away let me say that the incidents just keep piling on including a potential  crash of the stock market.

“Easy Living” is a delightfully swift comedy set during the depression and it must have been amusing and maybe even hopeful to depression audiences as Sturges takes plenty of pokes at the upper class and their so called “problems.” As with many of Sturges films,  written or directed, there is a combination of high verbal wit and low level slapstick. The fight scenes in the Automat are pure laugh out loud funny.

Jean Arthur is charming as Mary Smith and makes the entire movie a joy to watch. Arthur was at the beginning of the peak years of her career. Only two years earlier, she starred with Edward G. Robinson in John Ford’s amusing “The Whole Town’s Talking.” The following year in 1936, she would make her first film with director Frank Capra in “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.” Two other Capra classics would follow, “You Can’t Take it With You”, and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in 1938 and 1939, respectively. Among Arthur’s other works are C.B. DeMille’s “The Plainsman”, Howard Hawk’s “Only Angels Have Wings”, Frank Borzage “History is Made at Night”, Billy Wilder’s “A Foreign Affair”, and three films with George Stevens,  “Talk of the Town”,  “The More the Merrier” and her final film “Shane.”  Shy and reclusive, Arthur prematurely retired from acting, though she did make sporadic appearances on TV and some theater work. The theater work usually ended with disastrous results due to her shyness and severe bouts of stage fright.   John Oller in his biography of Arthur writes about one of  Ms. Arthur’s disastrous theater attempts, the 1967 Broadway production of “The Freaking Out of Stephanie Blake”, which closed during previews.  The production was hindered with props that did not work, pot-smoking stagehands and actors who did not show up for work. According to the author, in one incident Arthur got down on her knees and begged the preview audience to let her leave the stage.  Nevertheless, Arthur’s work on the screen is memorable and should be better appreciated today than it is. Along with Carole Lombard, Arthur represents the quintessential screwball  heroine, spirited, confident and uniquely American.   easy_living

   Arthur’s co-star, Edward Arnold, as the magnate J.B. Ball is full of himself and is the source of much of the slapstick humor in the film. Though he died at a relatively young 66 years old, his career spans 50 years in film dating back to 1916. Ray Milland as Mary’s love interest and J.B.’s son holds his own and has some incredible funny scenes. When he made “Easy Living”, Milland’s career was on the verge of becoming a full-blown star.  Also, in the cast is William Demarest, who would become a regular member of  Sturges stock company. Demarest plays a gossip columnist here who is responsible for spreading  the rumors about Mary being J.B.’s mistress.

Credit should also be given to director Mitchell Leisen, who despite a career that has been criticized by both Sturges and Billy Wilder is responsible for some respectable films,. In additions to “Easy Living” Leisen directed “No Man of Her Own”, Hold Back the Dawn”, “Remember the Night” and “Midnight.”  “Easy Living” is a wonderful screwball comedy that should be on everyone’s ‘to watch list.’

 Here’s a clip from  Easy Living and here is here is another.

An Evening with Carol Burnett

  carol_burnett_embedded_prod_affiliate_117  On Thursday night my wife and I went to see Carol Burnett at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. When my wife mentioned she wanted to get tickets for the show, I was not enthusiastic, not being a big fan of Carol Burnett. When her TV variety show was on I occasionally watched it, found it amusing but was not addicted. Anyway, we got the tickets and it turned out to be a much more enjoyable evening than I originally thought.

    The title of the show is called “Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett.” Modeled after the opening of her TV show, she took questions from the audience and additionally showed some hysterical clips from her show. It turned out to be a sidesplitting fast hour and a half of laughs. She answered audience questions by telling wonderful stories, and yes someone in the audience asked her for the “Tarzan” yell, which at 75, she can still do as well as ever.

    She won me over right at the beginning when she did a short tribute to her friend, the late Harvey Korman and followed it with a clip from her show, a skit called “The Dentist” with Korman and Tim Conway. Korman was the patient and Conway an inept dentist. The skit really belonged to Conway but it was hysterical watching Korman try to keep a straight face, which was impossible, as Conway apparently, improvised much leaving Korman on the floor and me in tears of laughter. I honestly have not laughed so hard at a comedic skit in years. Throughout the evening there were plenty of other clips from her show and one segment focused on her movie parodies which included “Went With the Wind”, “Golda”  and a parody of “Love Story” whose title I cannot remember.

    What was truly golden were Burnett’s stories. She spoke about her grandmother who used to take her to movies sometimes up to four times a week, and this of course was at a time when there were double features so she saw up to eight movies a week in a period long before home video.  This love of movies translated eventually to the skits she would later perform on her show. One audience member asked if she ever received any feedback from the stars she parodied on her show and she did. Ryan O’Neal was upset with Harvey Korman’s portrayal in the “Love Story” parody however, Ali MacGraw was thrilled by it. Rita Hayworth called Carol after seeing the parody of “Gilda” and asked if she could appear on her show!  Carol also spoke about her early days in show business, how she performed at the “The Blue Angel” in Greenwich Village and her big break with the Off Broadway show “Once upon a Mattress.” Then she became a regular on Gary Moore’s variety show, which eventually led to her own series in 1967.

    Carol told a couple of interesting stories about her good friend and mentor Lucille Ball.  While doing “Once Upon a Mattress” Lucy came to see the show. After the performance, Lucy went backstage and told Carol how much she enjoyed her performance and that if she ever needed a favor call her. Lucy called her kid. Three years later, Carol was given the opportunity to do a special on CBS however; the network told her she needs to get a big star as a guest. It was her agent, if I remember correctly, who told Carol why not call Lucy. Hesitant to call, after all it had been three years, she called and stumbled around telling Lucy how CBS wanted a big star for her upcoming special. “Kid, tell me when to be there.” Lucy said. They soon became best friends after that. Another Lucy story was  Lucy used to send Carol flowers every year on her birthday, which continued year after year. When Lucy died in 1989, it was on the date of Carol’s birthday. Carol heard about her death on the news that morning. Later that day, flowers arrived…from Lucy.

Carol also spoke about the origins of her little ear tugging at the end of each show. That started as a signal to her Grandmother when she made her first appearance on a TV show (Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show – does anyone out there remember that!). Her Grandmother wanted her to say hello to her while on the air. Knowing that the station would not allow it she told her Grandmother she would devise a signal, the tug on the ear, which would indicate her hello. From then on, it became a trademark of her act, which she continues to do today. 

    As you would expect, the focus of the show was on Carol’s TV Show however, she appeared on many other shows over the years, including her good friend Lucille Ball’s sit-coms, “Here’s Lucy and “The Lucy Show.” She also made appearances in “Magnum P.I.”, “Get Smart’, “The Twilight Zone”, “Touched by an Angel”, “Mad About You”, “All My Children”, “Desperate Housewives” and many others. Carol made quite a few Made for TV movies, including “The Marriage Fool” where she reunited with Walter Matthau, “6 Rms, Riv Vu” which Alan Alda, “Friendly Fire”, and “Eunice” which was based on her TV show character and led to the TV series “Mama’s Family” that starred Vicki Lawrence. Carol made her feature film debut in the little seen “Who’s Been Sleeping in my Bed” with Dean Martin and Elizabeth Montgomery. She also appeared in “The Four Seasons”, “The Front Page”, “Health”, “Annie”, “A Wedding” and “Pete ‘n Tillie.”                

    It was a great show that was entertaining, brought back memories and made me revisit a very gifted comedienne I have unjustly ignored over the years. 

The Outsider (1961) Mann

Here is a link to my latest article at  Halo-17, a little know film called The Outsider. It is the story of Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian, who was one of five Marines and one Sailor who raised the American flag at Iwo Jima.

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The Lady Eve (1941) Preston Sturges

    “The Lady Eve” is one of the most intelligent, romantic, funny screwball comedies to grace the screen. Preston Sturges opened the door for other screenwriters, like Billy Wilder, who frustrated with directors messing with their work, wanted to direct their own scripts. Sturges had a great run making eight classic films,  including  “The Great McGinty”, “Christmas in July”, “Sullivan’s Travels”, “The Miracle of Morgan Creek”, “Hail, The Conquering Hero”, The Palm Beach Story”, “Unfaithfully Yours” and of course “The Lady Eve.”  Sturges films were unique in blending sophisticated humor right along side laugh out loud slapstick. According to Peter Bogdonovich in an interview on the DVD of “The Lady Eve”, he states that the term screwball came from a comment made about Carole Lombard’s performance in “My Man Godfrey”, “That’s real screwball she played” and the term stuck for romantic comedies with farcical overtones. Well, “The Lady Eve” is a prime example of screwball. Barbara Stanwyck is Jean who along with her father (Charles Coburn) are card sharks looking for prey on the cruise ship heading back to the states. Henry Fonda is a rich naïve man named Charles Pike who is returning home after a year of studying snakes abroad and falls prey to Jean and her father’s card schemes. Only problem is Jean, did not plan to fall in love

    Stanwyck and Fonda make a great team. They made three films together all comedies, which is pretty amazing since Fonda did not make that many comedies. “The Lady Eve” was the second film they made together; “The Mad Miss Manton” came first. These two are the cream of the threesome though “You Belong to Me”, their final film together is pleasant and worth seeing if for no other reason that to watch these two stars together.   

    Fonda manages to fall, trip, slide, and slip so many times that he seems to spend much of the film on the ground. My favorite scene is the seduction scene where Jean practically seduces Charles by continually twirling his hair while he is reclining on the floor getting more and more flustered. This is one of the most seductive and sexy scenes ever filmed. Both stars are just perfect. I was breaking out in a cold sweat just watching!  What makes Fonda so effective is that he does not play it for laughs. He plays it straight and that makes it even funnier. Stanwyck is such a talented actress who can play both drama and comedy to perfection. She has a great scene where she is sitting in the dining room, of the ship, with her makeup mirror commenting on all the women who try to catch the shy rich Fonda’s eye who is sitting at another table reading a book. Only one year earlier Stanwyck worked on the Sturges scripted “Remember the Night” and he told Stanwyck at that time that some day he would write a screwball comedy for her. He kept his word.

    As usual with Sturges there is a great supporting cast including Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette and William Demarest all who are wonderful. “The Lady Eve” is a film that is not be missed, well written and very funny.  

 

Blonde Crazy (1931) Del Ruth

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    Over the years, there have been plenty of movies about grifters, confidence men, scam artist and flim flam men. Think David Mamet’s “House of  Games”, Lubitsch’s “Trouble in Paradise”, “The Grifters”, “Confidence”, “The Flim Flam Man” and “The Sting” just to name a few. An early entry in this sub genre, just to give it a category, is Roy Del Ruth’s 1931 film “Blonde Crazy.” Starring James Cagney, who would play a scam artist again a couple of years later in Merlyn LeRoy’s “Hard to Handle”,  and Joan Blondell along with Louis Calhern and Noel Francis, “Blonde Crazy” is a lively, witty and entertaining piece of pre-code cinema that is enhanced by the screen chemistry of its two stars.

    Fresh off his career-making role in “The Public Enemy” Cagney is Bert Harris, a bellhop and small time grifter working in a hotel in a small mid-western town. In walks Anne Roberts (Joan Blondell) looking for a job as a chambermaid. Bert eyes her lasciviously and decides it worth having her around. He arranges for the last recently filled chambermaid position to be vacated and for Ann to get the position. Looking for Ann to be ever so grateful, he arranges for her to come up to an empty room in the hotel so they can be along and she can demonstrate just how thankful she is.  Instead, Bert gets a slap in his face, one of many he will receive from Ann.

 01westlake_6501   Despite Bert’s fresh attitude Ann soon hooks up with him and do their first con together scamming a hotel guest. They soon are off to a big Midwestern city where they meet Dapper Dan Barber (Louis Calhern) and Helen (Noel Francis) two big time con artists they team up with only to be swindled out of five thousand dollars by both of them.  Ann meets rich Wall Street investor Joe Reynolds (Ray Milland)  who is everything Bert is not, successful in an honest job, has friends who are into the arts. Joe is the kind of guy Ann would like to settle down with. However, there is a score to settle with Dapper Dan, and Ann comes up with a successful sting of her own that will get their money back from him.  Bert now wants to marry Ann, but she has fallen in love with Joe. They soon marry while Bert looks on.

    One year later Bert is living in a small apartment when there’s a knock on the door. It’s Ann, and it seems that honest Joe is not that law-abiding. Ann explains that Joe has embezzled thirty thousand dollars in unregistered bonds from his company.  Ann wants to borrow money from Bert so Joe can pay back the firm. Only problems is, Bert is broke. After Ann married Joe, Bert quit grifting. Still stuck on Ann he comes up with a plan to help her husband only to be double-crossed by Joe when he notifies the police and Bert is caught in the act and arrested. Ann realizing she is love with Joe, who now faces years behind bars, swears her love and promising she will wait for him.   

   blondecraz Up until the phony happy ending “Blonde Crazy” is unencumbered by censorship. There’s plenty of spicy dialogue delivered by many in the cast. Racy scenes include Cagney ogling Blondell’s body when she first arrives at the hotel looking for work, Blondell discreetly naked taking a bath giving the audience, if not Cagney, a partial view of the right side of her breast. We also have Cagney inspecting Blondell’s panties and bra to find where she hides her money (in her bra). Considering all this, why the filmmakers felt that Cagney had to pay for his sins with jail time is a mystery and Blondell as the woman promising to wait for him has been done so many times since it has become a cliché. Despite this, the film is a real pleasure to watch. Cagney and Blondell, in their fourth of seven films they made together are a perfect match as comfortable together as a pair of well-worn shoes. I don’t think the fast talking Cagney ever had a better match than the wise cracking sassy Joan Blondell.

    The Cagney persona that became so recognized was not yet fully developed at this point in his career. There are scenes early in the film that seem a little off kilter coming from Mr. Cagney. For example, the first half or so of the film is comedic and Cagney’s character, Bert, keeps greeting the ladies with a loud uncharacteristic “Hello Honeeeeeey!”  Later in the film, as it turns more serious, shades of the Cagney persona emerge that we know so well. This does not deter from the film, it is more just an interesting point as you watch Cagney’s career and persona develop from these early films to the classic Cagney we know so well.  

    Written by the team of Kubee Glasmon and John Bright who also wrote or had a hand in writing  “The Public Enemy”, Three on a Match”, “Smart Money”, “Union Depot”, “Taxi” and “The Crowd Roars”, all films that costarred both or at least either Cagney and Blondell. Directed by Roy Del Ruth, one of Warner Brother’s studio directors the film is solidly made. Del Ruth made some of his best films during the pre code period under the Warner Brothers banner. Later in his career, his films became more uneven with atrocious work like “The Babe Ruth Story” and “The Alligator People” mixed in somewhat more successful films like “West Point Story” and a lot of TV work. 

  blondecrazy-still1  “Blonde Crazy” opened in New York at the Strand Theater on Broadway in early December and was a triumph at the box office guaranteeing Cagney’s and Blondell’s continued success. According Matthew Kennedy in his recent biography “Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes” Blondell, like Cagney, went from one film to another with little or no breaks in between. The Warner Brothers ran their studio like a factory. In just over a year since she was signed to a contract, Joan made twelve movies! Cagney, a huge star now with the success of “The Public Enemy” decided that after “Blonde Crazy” he wanted more money than his current contract with Warners was paying. When Warners refused, he walked out on his contract. Again, according to Matthew Kennedy, Cagney told Blondell she should do the same thing and demand more money. Insecure with no hit under her belt the size of “The Public Enemy” and responsible for supporting her family, Blondell stayed and continued to work. Cagney would return with a huge increase in pay while Joan continued to receive her contracted salary.    

    “Blonde Crazy” was released on VHS years ago as part of the “Forbidden Hollywood” series that came out in the 1990’s. Unfortunately, there is no sign of a DVD release. Maybe, if we are lucky some creative studio executive with get a brilliant idea and release a box set of Cagney/Blondell films, all seven of them!