He Was Her Man (1934) Lloyd Bacon

    The team of Cagney and Blondell never reached the iconic level of Tracy and Hepburn though these two Warner Brothers stars set off plenty of sparks in their six films together. Released in 1934 just short of the start date for the newly enforced policing of Hollywood sinema, ‘He Was Her Man’ is a slight but entertaining drama from the most street wise of Hollywood studios. Both stars play it low-key in this downbeat story, with Cagney even sporting a mustache.

    The plot evolves around Flicker Hayes (Cagney) recently released from jail and seeking revenge on the gang members who set him up to take the rap. Not expecting Flicker to be vindictive, his former buddies include him in on a new job. He squeals to the police on the plan, a drug company’s safe, resulting in one of the gang members being caught and sentenced to die in the electric chair. To avoid getting bumped off for his revenge driven deed, Flicker skips town settling in San Francisco where he meets down and out former prostitute Rose Lawrence (Blondell) who is on her way to a small fishing village to marry Nick Gardella (Victor Jory), a respectable fisherman she met who loves her despite her immoral past.  A couple of the gang members come west on a tip to find Flicker who decided to take Rose to the fishing village figuring the small out of the way town is a good place to hide.  Flicker and Rose don’t plan it but they fall in love.

    The gang members soon manage to track Flicker down at the seaside village, only they want to kill Rose also figuring she knows too much. Flicker, who she only knows by his alias Jerry Allan, convinces the thugs Rose knows nothing of his past and if they agree to leave her alone he’ll go with them. As the film concludes, Flicker and his two assassins drive off toward the ocean where they will do their dirty deed. Rose marries the kindly Nick as the film comes to a rather poignant conclusion.     

    Despite the movie’s final wedding scene, the film ends on a despondent note with our gangster hero going off to his death. Cagney is subdued in this film and fans who like the hyperactive Jimmie may be disappointed. Blondell in a rare lead role is also fairly subdued as Rose avoiding her usual perky wise cracking style. Victor Jory does well as Nick Gardella, the Portuguese fisherman in love with Blondell.  As a pre-code film, it met the standard sinful requirements in a few instances. First Bondell’s character makes it clear she was selling herself to survive and that wedding dress she wears at the end of the film is low cut enough to qualify for 2009. There is also, early in the film, a scene when Cagney’s character is squealing to the cops, telling them that the drug company going to be robbed is loaded with “junk and nose candy.”

    Directed by Warner’s studio director Lloyd Bacon, the film lacks the kind of action most folks expect from a Warner’s gangster film. Its countryside by the seas location instead of the big city is also a change of pace from what is generally expected. While this is not a must see, it is worth a look and Cagney and Blondell completist will be pleased.

** 1/2

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7 comments on “He Was Her Man (1934) Lloyd Bacon

  1. Judy says:

    Great to have your take on this movie, John – I watched this a little while back and thought it wasn’t one of the best that Cagney and Blondell did together, but I still enjoyed it. I thought Blondell was great in the scene near the start where she is almost collapsing with hunger, and really she has more scope than Cagney does in the course of the film, as she is torn between the two men in her life. If I remember rightly, Cagney has an awful lot of mamma’s boy type scenes with his love rival Nick’s mother cooking him meals, fussing over him, etc – he was great at this type of stuff but it didn’t really stretch him and, as you say, he doesn’t have that hyped-up intensity which is his key quality in this movie. I hadn’t really picked up on all the pre-Code elements you point out – interesting to think about. I need to watch this one again soon!

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  2. addie says:

    It is true that cagney does not have all of the explosive stuff we love him for, but he has a, sort of, knowing smile, a confidence, that is all him. That smile, that attitude from him is wonderful.
    Judy makes a good point about the Cagney, mom thing. It seems to be natural and no stretch to him at all.

    I happen to watch this movie today. I had forgotten how good Victor Jory was in it. He kicks butt!
    Yeah, the “Nose Candy,” comment surprised me, kind of a lot. pre-code or not pre-code, that was something.

    Sometimes I wish I did believe in god because than i could take comfort in knowing, “The Hayes commitee, etc” were in hell.

    Your reveiws are so interesting. Thank you.

    addie

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    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Addie,

      Jory is quite good here and yes the point about Cagney’s Mom thing (ha!). WHITE HEAT is most obvious but also in THE PUBLIC ENEMY that I can think.

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  3. addie says:

    Judy first mentioned the mom thing, I cannot take credit for the keen observation.
    In his first movie he had a mother who he loves but disapponts and she hits him. There must be more.
    In one of his auto-bios he said it was his first movie punch and she really did hurt him. She had not meant to, he just did not expect to actually get hit.
    He ends up relating to Jean Harlow that way in PUBLIC ENEMY. She ends up seducing him, calling him her darling boy, or something.
    It is sweet of him, not nuts, right?

    In this movie Cagney and Jory’s mother play off of each so naturally.

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    • John Greco says:

      The actress who played Jory’s mother was Sarah Padden, not very well known but had a long career. She had a recurring role the low budget Joe Palooka films (there films you don’t see anymore!)from the 1940’s. They did seem to have a connection between them.

      I always liked the rapport between Cagney and Blondell. They made seven films together; “The Crowd Roars” and “Blonde Crazy” are particularly good.

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  4. […] in 1934 just short of the start date for the newly enforced policing of Hollywood sinema, “He Was Her Man” is a slight, […]

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  5. […] John Greco at 24 Frames sums up the picture pretty well: […]

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