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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Enough Of Sleuthing Couples?


Murder and Mirth Again with There's Always A Woman (1938)

Too much madcap! Metro's Thin Man formula co-opted by Columbia, Joan Blondell and Melvyn Douglas as husband-wife sleuths. Blondell generally does no wrong in GPS quarters, so to find her grating as here puts salt in wound applied by too-cute dialogue and situations. Such a knowing persona as JB's, demonstrated over and again at precode Warners, is woeful miscast when harebrained, let alone as constant handicap toward solving a pair of deaths. This is once when comedy drowns out mystery to detriment of both,  proof of just how delicate the Thin Man formula was, at least to extent of duplicating it. Melvyn Douglas was always a better actor than personality, sense being that he pinch-hit when a Gable or William Powell couldn't be had. Scrappy stuff between him and Blondell nears a border I'd call abuse, and what's more painful than a drunk scene that refuses to end? For Blondell's part, there'd been move away from Warner exclusivity; they'd been shunting her to B's, maybe in recognition that this daughter of the Depression had spent her bolt. Was Joan trying too hard to compensate here? There's Always A Woman is well made if not sumptuous, and there are welcome faces in the suspect line: Mary Astor, Frances Drake, Jerome Cowan ... Astor might have wondered why two-years-earlier Dodsworth hadn't done her more good. A series with the Blondell/Douglas characters was planned, one more in fact made, but with Virginia Bruce subbing for Blondell. There's Always A Woman took $505K in domestic rentals, not shabby, but nowhere near what Thin Man sequels routinely earned. Shown on TCM --- also available from Sony/Columbia DVD.

4 Comments:

Blogger Rae Quan said...

This film is shown regularly on a network called "gettv". My cable company carries it and I also think it's available over the air as a digital channel -- not sure. It shows many films that I haven't seen on TCM. Or maybe I just missed it when it was shown. This film seems like a programmer and as much as I respect and admire Joan Blondell she is in clear decline by this point. Not really that bad a thing though, since my favorite film by her is "Nightmare Alley" made about 10 years later.


On another note, is todays poster from "White Woman" (1932)?

3:47 PM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Were there many (or any) female series sleuths who didn't have steady mates? Torchy Blaine and Hildegarde Winters each had a boyfriend on the force, Miss Marple had Mr. Stringer, and even Nancy Drew had her grumbling not-quite-a-boyfriend (possibly why he grumbled).

4:38 PM  
Blogger Paul Castiglia said...

Meanwhile, the one that should have become a series was Joan Davis and Leon Errol - their one shot, "She Gets Her Man," while also a programmer is a crackshot one. Trailer: https://youtu.be/Wpo1dFy8F9s

6:27 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard M. Roberts compares "There's Always A Woman" with some of Joan Blondell's other Columbia work:


Agree with you about
THERE’S ALWAYS A WOMAN, too forced and shrill, but oddly enough, Orson Welles
and staff managed a bit better with the material in the radio adaptation of the
film they did on CAMPBELL PLAYHOUSE in 1939, I think Marie Wilson subbed for
Blondell on that show.

Also oddly enough, the other two Joan
Blondell./Melvyn Douglas/Alexander Hall in the Director’s Chair pairings at
Columbia are somewhat better, both THE AMAZING MR. WILLIAMS (1938) and GOOD
GIRLS GO TO PARIS (1938) have better scripts and pacing, with Blondell playing
characters more suited to her persona and way more likeable, and Douglas being
his patented suave and charming self. Yet Columbia did even better by Blondell
in the forties with the Leigh Jason directed THREE GIRLS ABOUT TOWN (1941),
which is a very funny little programmer that I’ve seen go over gangbusters with
an audience, helped much by a fun cast that includes Robert Benchley, Eric
Blore, Una O’Connor, and John Howard showing he can play comedy quite
competently, and a script that walks a fine line with the Hays Office
considering the three girls about town are “convention hostesses” at a hotel
where they get involved in a murder. Definitely a film deserving of more
attention than it gets.

Columbia also delivered a late Blondell starring
vehicle in 1947 called THE CORPSE CAME C.O.D that turns out to be a surprisingly
solid little comedy thriller with Joan paired with George Brent who actually
shows more personality than he usually displays. It’s pretty much Joan’s last
leading role and she still looks great as she and the rest of the cast sail
through a decent murder mystery comedy script, nothing particularly original,
but one last semi-screwball black comedy before post-WW2 tastes rendered those
movies completely old-hat.

9:23 AM  

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