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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Where Sheridan Was Warners' Whole Show


Juke Girl (1942) Is Sizzle Plus Steak

Ads and reputation would suggest that Juke Girl is a cheapie, if not a sleazy. The title redoubles impressions, but no, it's neither. Juke Girl exposes raw deal bean pickers got in a heartland that's more wasteland as portrayed here. It may be a last sour take on US day-to-day before the war slipped a patriotic leash on movies and folks watching them. Writing was A.I. Bezzerides, who'd done a truck story (They Drive By Night) that got him a WB contract. There'd be trucks here too, but played down so as not to seem repeat of the last. There was really but one thing to sell here, and it was Ann Sheridan, coming into own as Warner's grenade with pin pulled, a sex lure for even a pic about bean pickers. Juke Girl sounded like outlaw product gone to impolite theatres that didn't worry with Code seals, that mere hoodwink, for this was better than fronts would suggest.


Social comment is at play via working folk done wrong by fat cat Gene Lockhart, him committing murder for which Sheridan and co-star Ronald Reagan are nearly lynched. The vegetable and produce market is a racketeering hotbed, and it's not just isolated bad apples. Corruption travels phone line to screw sellers at both ends of a route. I don't think Juke Girl could have got made a year later. Bezzerides said a "B" script-partner was forced on him, weakening hard-hit first proposed. That's fate of virtually all studio output, I'd guess, but Bezzerides lived ninety-eight years, so there was opportunity to tell his grievance, and often. Social comment of Juke Girl stayed under radars because of how the film was marketed, but it was there, and might have been HUAC-useful had committee and critics later noted it.

Extended Fuzzy Knight Appearance Dropped From Final Prints

Juke Girl was primarily to re-team Ann Sheridan and Ronald Reagan after shared success of King's Row, that one proof that both could "act" and were getting opportunity to do so again. Sheridan got long-range oomph from help like this, but Reagan had to fold his hand with war service and lose momentum that 1941-42 releases had given him. Little after the war would be as effective for him as even Juke Girl. Outside King's Row, Sheridan was mostly chanteuses and hash-slingers given tart Jerry Wald-ish (often his) dialogue and making a most of it. She seemed for a most part like a Howard Hawks woman not being directed by Howard Hawks, him hiring her later for I Was A Male War Bride, that almost certainly for seeing, and remembering, Sheridan in things like Torrid Zone, They Drive By Night, and Juke Girl.

Chicago First-Run with Live Accompany

Sheridan had revolted, more over money (not enough) than parts. She didn't mind the Oomph tag so much, having earlier entered Panther Woman sweepstakes, after all (for Island of Lost Souls). Warners needed a sex bomb for wartime detonation, so she'd be it. Ads for Juke Girl would be all over Sheridan with no hint of content otherwise. Then as later, and certainly now, people had to have very simple reasons to go to movies. Sheridan in tough girl pose and daring men to draw nigh was but variation on theme known to Warner watchers who'd seen her male counterpart in James Cagney (one reason why they were so effective together --- two of a rough kind). WB spent on Juke Girl ($751K negative cost), more so than for star-bigger In This Our Life or Across The Pacific of a same season, and there was profit ($466K). Warner Archive has a DVD, and TCM's latest broadcast looks to be an upgrade, if not HD.

5 Comments:

Blogger coolcatdaddy said...

They were selling this like it was some kind of steamy Pre-Code picture.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Stinky loves Ann Sheridan. Ronald Reagan, not so much.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

There's a Sheridan reference in "The Princess and the Pirate". Bob Hope is assuring a tavern owner that his act will go over big because his partner (Virginia Mayo) has "oomph".

"What is 'oomph'?" the man asks. Hope makes a few vague gestures and asks "You got a sweater?"

Also in the Daffy Duck cartoon where he crashes the Warner lot in search of autographs. We see a row of outhouse-sized dressing rooms; Sheridan's has curves and is surrounded by barbed wire and bear traps. Jimmy Durante pops out of his to reveal a bear trap on his leg.

4:50 PM  
Blogger rnigma said...

A.I. Bezzerides co-created (with ex-Warner producer Lou Edelman) "The Big Valley."

9:50 AM  
Blogger iarla said...

Sheridan had a sultry warmth, a true tart with a heart, that made her seem more real than the other pin ups.

2:52 PM  

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