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Thursday, January 03, 2019

From Precode's Middle Drawer


Serve Big Business Girl (1931) To Mixed Modern Reaction



"Well, I'm a glass of dirty water," says Joan Blondell in last reel highlight of a till-then uneven precode. Players for Warner ran like mice in one of those wheels; I don't know how they kept straight all such stuff they did, let alone had or took opportunity to go in theatres and see finished work. I can imagine a Blondell, Loretta Young, in front of a TV forty years later and being surprised to see themselves walk into an early 30's show they had utterly forgot. No wonder so many said it was like watching someone else perform. Toward determination not to louse up a shot comes Loretta Young, still teenaged in 1931 and letting flies crawl up and down her bare back during a clinch with Ricardo Cortez. Skins were thicker then, it seems, or do flies itch less then than they would today? With Depression-money so hard got, who'd mind insects having their meal even on porcelain flesh that was Loretta's? Big Business Girl has her chained from start to weak and whiny Frank Albertson, beside whom heel of a Cortez looks like a bargain. Sex politics in these could often please, but also go retro toward gender rules we'd prefer gone, and maybe audiences then felt a same way. Tightropes were walked to satisfactory finish of precodes, and some fell a wrong way, at least to modern tastes. Be warned: unworthy men have the advantage here, none good enough for our B.B. Girl. Did Loretta Young face much a same situation in life? Big Business Girl is just OK, has moments, but there are dozens from the era I'd place in front of it. Available on DVD from Warner Archive. 

2 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Ha! I've seen BIG BUSINESS GIRL, maybe even twice but have a hard time right now sussing out its specifics in my memory. A lot of these Warner pre-codes flop around on my poor old aged brain pan like Roadrunner cartoons and Shemp/Stooge episodes: I love 'em all, but at this late date have a hell of a time telling them apart! Much overlap and they all have Joan Blondell (well, the Roadrunners and Shemps don't have Blondell, but you get my point.) Of course Ms. Young was gorgeous her entire career, but it always shocks me a little at how natural and unmannered she was as a youngster before taking on a more polished movie star sheen in her acting.

9:07 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer reflects on marriage and pre-code:


"Weak and whiny Frank Albertson"? It seems that there were a number of pictures made around this time, like "Employees Entrance" and "Ten Cents a Dance," in which the heroine finds herself looking outside the marriage for the support and protection men were supposed to provide. Was this an appealing fantasy for women in the audience, tied to "until death us do part" marriages with a man who'd lost his job in the Great Depression and had been on relief for months? Or more than a fantasy?

By the way, Wikipedia describes "Big Business Girl" as a comedy. Any "laffs" in it?

7:48 PM  

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