Sunday, March 2, 2014

February Movie Mania...

This month I spent revisiting films I havent seen in a few years to upwards of more than a decade! It wasnt my initial intention but it ended up basically being "Joan Blondell Month" as all but ONE of the 22 films viewed had her in the cast!

Artman's rating system:
**** = awesome!
*** = solid!
** = watchable!
* = lame!
BOMB = sucked!

February 3rd
“I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang” 1932 WB
The great Paul Muni gives the performance of his career as James Allen, a decorated WWI veteran, falsely accused of robbery and sentenced to hard labor on a chain gang. The harrowing and tragic true story of Robert Burns is taken as a base and fashioned into one of the most potent and unforgettable Hollywood films ever made. First rate direction, editing, screenplay, cast and performances and a knockout finale that will leave you stunned! ****

Paul Muni received an Oscar nomination for his incredible performance but lost out to Charles Laughton for "The Private Lives of King Henry the VIII"

February 7th
“Sinner’s Holiday” 1930 WB
Interesting early talkie about carnival life was the screen debut of James Cagney. He is quite good even though he did go a bit over the top in the more emotional scenes. This was also the first pairing of Cagney with Joan Blondell and she is totally perfect as a bottom of the barrel floozy. Evalyn Knapp is fine but Grant Withers goes a bit overboard with the Eddie Cantor style bug eyes. I like the carnival atmosphere and quirky characters. Good little film. ** ½

February 8th
“Other Men’s Women” 1931 WB
James Cagney’s first film with Wild Bill Wellman is an engaging and fast moving little drama. Star Grant Withers gives a much better performance in this than “Sinner’s Holiday” and with people like Mary Astor, Reegis Toomey and of course, Cagney and Joan Blondell in the cast you really can’t miss! Joan and Withers did a great drunk scene together. As always Wellman added those special visual touches that set him apart from all other film makers. ***

“The Public Enemy” 1931 WB
James Cagney deservedly became a star with his powerhouse performance in William Wellman’s tough, fast moving gangster classic. Top-notch support from Joan Blondell, Mae Clark, Eddie Woods, Leslie “Nails Nathan” Fenton and Robert Emmett O’Connor. The only off note is Jean Harlow, she just does not fit in this picture at all in my opinion but she can't bring it down! For a 1931 production Wellman’s camera was amazingly mobile and the overall energy and toughness of the picture remains potent to this day. ****

February 10th
“Blonde Crazy” 1931 WB
Fast-moving, fast talking pre-coder with James Cagney and Joan Blondell hooking up as a team of con-artists working their way from small town to big city and getting into all sorts of money and trouble along the way! Flirty, sexy and highly enjoyable! This picture is one of the best showcases for Joanie and Jimmy’s wonderful chemistry! *** ½

February 11th
“The Crowd Roars” 1932 WB
Fast-paced Howard Hawks film set amidst the sport of car racing. First-rate cast with James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Eric Linden and especially Ann Dvorak all giving out with fine performances. The story is nothing new but its well-done and entertaining. Blondell and Dvorak are both so fucking easy on the eyes! **1/2

February 12th
“Footlight Parade” 1933 WB
The apex of the 1930’s musical is this near manic-paced masterpiece about the ups and downs of a Prologue production company, run by James Cagney and his ever so devoted secretary Joan Blondell. Many of the best of WB stock company fill out the cast including Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Claire Dodd, Ruth Donnelly, Hugh Herbert and on and on it goes! Three show-stopping Busby Berkley numbers finish off the film in grand style! Masterfully directed by the great Lloyd Bacon! It just doesn’t get any better than this! **** 

Joan Blondell, James Cagney and Ruby Keeler in "Footlight Parade"

Joan Blondell behind the scenes during the making of "Footlight Parade"

February 16th
“He Was Her Man” 1934 WB
James Cagney and Joan Blondell team up for the very last time in this odd downbeat melodrama about a safecracker looking to get back at the guys who let him take a rap for something he didn’t do. A chance meeting with down-on-her luck Joan Blondell complicates things. A good cast makes the most of the material. It is rather leisurely paced, especially considering that it was directed by Lloyd Bacon, but I enjoyed it much more this time than when I first saw it many years ago. ** ½

A Lobby Card I WISH I Owned!

“Havana Widows” 1933 WB
Highly entertaining, over the top tale of two Gold Diggers, played by Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell, high-tailing it down to Cuba to hook a millionaire or two. Silly, fast-paced and a whole lot of fun and Joan is shown in some of Orry Kelly’s most revealing and outrageous fashions. She’s pure sex on a stick! ***

Frank McHugh, Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Lyle Talbot, Ruth Donnelly and Glenda Farrell in "Havana Widows" 1933

February 17th
“Were In The Money” 1935 WB
Silly, light-hearted fluff with Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell getting into all kinds of mischief as process servers. Hugh Herbert gets a bit tough to take after a while with his over the top hoo-hoo antics but it’s all in fun and the gals look fantastic! **

Joan Blondell with Ross Alexander in "We're in the Money" 1935

“Three On A Match” 1932 WB
Ann Dvorak gives a tour de force performance in one of Warner Bros. most quintessentially “WB” films of the 1930’s. The remaining cast – Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Warren William, Lyle Talbot, Humphrey Bogart, Allen Jenkins, Jack LaRue and Edward Arnold are all superb as well but this was Ann’s moment to shine and she is utterly compelling. The film itself is a marvel of economic storytelling showing the lives of three women from childhood to adult and what happens when their paths cross. A fantastic picture on every level. Should be required viewing for any classic film fan! ****

Joan Blondell and Bette Davis out on location while filming "Three on a Match" 1932

February 18th
“Night Nurse” 1931 WB
Ultra-hard boiled William Wellman picture with the always excellent Barbara Stanwyck playing a night shift nurse. Joan Blondell is her gum-smacking sidekick, Ben Lyon a bootlegger with the hots for her and Clark Gable, in a rare “Heavy” role, really lets her have it on the chin! Off-beat picture has plenty of Wellman visual touches and humor, plus Babs and Joanie spend a good percentage of the picture in their shreddies! And on top of everything else my coveted Art Deco “DESK” makes an appearance! ***

Ben Lyons, Joan Blondell and Barbara Stanwyck in "Night Nurse" 1931

I think Joan Blondell spent more time on-screen in her underwear than any other actress of her era!

“The Famous Ferguson Case” 1932 WB
Hard-boiled look at sensationalistic journalism pulls no punches right to the end! A fantastic performance by Joan Blondell and an ace supporting cast with ever the slimeball Kenneth Thomson, Leslie Fenton, Grant Mitchell, Adrienne Dore, Vivienne Osborne, Leon Ames and Tom Brown. Unflinchingly shows what can happen when newspapermen start “making” the news instead of reporting it! I like to call this the small town version of “Five Star Final” ***

Joan Blondell, Kenneth Thomson and Adrienne Dore in "The Famous Ferguson Case" 1932

“Miss Pinkerton” 1933 WB
Fun little comedy-mystery film with Joan Blondell as a nurse working in a house full of odd people and even odder goings on! George Brent is a detective investigating a murder/suicide that occurred in the house. I get the distinct impression this was meant to be a series but never made it past the first film. **

“Union Depot” 1931 WB
Joan Blondell, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Guy Kibbee excel in this fast-moving drama that takes place during one day at a train depot. When a drunken Frank McHugh accidentally leaves his suitcase in the men’s room, hobo Doug gets to play “Gentleman for a day”.  Excellent performances, gritty atmosphere and no cop-out at the finish make this a winner. ***

February 19th
“Kansas City Princess” 1934 WB
Silly, fast-moving nonsense with Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell up to their gold digging antics again. Robert Armstrong, Hugh Herbert and Vince Barnett all give broad performances as various types of dim wits. Once again, Joan is dressed by Orry-Kelly and looks killer! ** ½

February 20th
“God’s Gift To Women” 1931 WB
Fairly limp Frank Fay comedy vehicle is of interest mainly for the rare talking film appearance of Louise Brooks. She looks great but still, Joan Blondell takes top honors in the looks department and has a really funny scene with Fay about midway through the picture. There’s also a nice catfight with Joan, Louise and Yola D’Avril! Of other interest is the stunning Deco art direction by Robert M Haas, including my beloved “DESK”!!! **

February 21st
“Lawyer Man” 1932 WB
The one and only teaming of Joan Blondell with William Powell is this fun, fast-moving little film about a, you guessed it…Lawyer! Joanie is his faithful, devoted and of course ever-loving secretary that he is, of course, completely clueless about. Supporting cast includes Claire Dodd, David Landau and an uncredited (and unlisted at IMDB!) appearance by Patricia Ellis as one of Powell’s other secretaries. This info is now in the process of being added to the IMDB Database! ***

February 23rd
“Gold Diggers of 1933” 1933 WB
Joan Blondell, Warren William, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Aline MacMahon and Guy Kibbee star in this spectacular depression era musical extravaganza. Three showgirls trying to find work stumble into all sorts of interesting situations while producer Ned Sparks tries to “put on the show”! Several Busby Berkeley numbers throughout, including the opener “We’re in the Money”, where Ginger Rogers spouts pig-latin and the absolutely jaw-dropping, show-stopping, unforgettable finale “My Forgotten Man”. A first-rate job by director Mervyn LeRoy! ****

February 24th
“Smarty” 1934 WB
Joan Blondell and Warren William team up for the last of their four films together and its one of the most whacked and bizarre of the entire pre-code era! I wouldn’t think of giving away the plot (if you can call it that) but it’s certainly a unique picture with a great supporting cast including Edward Everett Horton, Frank McHugh and Claire Dodd. Joan’s anatomy is generously and gloriously on display for pretty much the entire film! ** ½

A publicity pic I own for the TV release of "Smarty" in the 1950's signed by Joan.

“Goodbye Again” 1933 WB
Silly, sexy, fast-moving fun with Warren William as an author being reunited with the woman, wonderfully played by Genevieve Tobin, who thinks she is the inspiration for his novels. Joan Blondell is of course his devoted, loving and under appreciated secretary. Great supporting cast with Wallace Ford, Hugh Herbert, Helen Chandler and Hobart Cavanaugh. Despite this being a comedy, the dramatic scene where Joan gives Willy a piece of her mind (and two slaps in the face!) is the best part of the film! ** ½

Helen Chandler, Wallace Ford, Genevieve Tobin, Hugh Herbert, Warren William and Joan Blondell in "Goodbye Again" 1933

February 26th
“Blondie Johnson” 1933 WB
An ace cast including Joan Blondell, Chester Morris and Allen Jenkins makes the most of the uneven story of a down on her luck dame getting wise and going for the dough at all costs! This could have and should have been a better film but its still decently entertaining and of course Joan looks fantastic! ** ½

To date this is my one and only Joan Blondell Lobby card. I've had it for about 15 years now.

In March its back to "New to Me" films including a slew of Esther Williams films I have on deck! I figure if Esther cant get me ready for spring NO one can! But I'm 6 films behind for February so first up is to play catch up on a few more films I havent seen in a while!


joe bloke said...

where on Earth do you get the time, old sport?! I'm lucky if I an squeeze in a film a week, let alone one a day! that said, I'm currently working my way through a box of old vhs tapes that me mum found in her attic/loft, none of which have any indication of what's on them, and all of which seem to have been recorded off the tv. turns out I was a BIG Greta Garbo fan in my youth. & Peter Greenaway. go figure!

Artman2112 said...

simple...i have no life haha! i usually watch one at dinner time. keep in mind most of these movies are only slightly more than hour long too. looking through those old tapes must be fun! all kinds of surprises! good to see you're still around! pip pip old thing!