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Monday, October 25, 2021

Office Boy-Toy in Kay Clutches


Kay Francis Precode-Declares Man Wanted (1932)



Kay Francis teed off her Warners contract with this, but new addressing came with a price, uproar a result of WB hiring her away from Paramount, along with fellow stalwart William Powell. Studios publicly called star raids bad cricket, slave trading best handled in orderly fashion, said moguls among themselves. The Warners being industry bad boys made their actions all the more an affront. Hadn't they disrupted routine enough by jump-starting talkies and forcing a whole town to retrofit? Accusation flew in the trades as others got in the game. Darryl Zanuck of start-up Twentieth-Century Pictures gave Warners a taste of their own medicine by grabbing off George Arliss after WB carelessly let his contract expire without renewal terms in place. Such was grim game of star wrangling, and occasional rustling. 



Man Wanted
was an improvement on Kay Francis merchandise sold by Paramount, being quicker-to-points than recent ones fueled on molasses. 62 minutes was time enough to reach foregone conclusion of editorix (is there such a word?) Kay hiring David Manners for a secretary, then getting "that way" about him amidst deco backdrop and cocktails shaking. Precode was noteworthy for letting adults behave like adults, thus Francis here in more-or-less open marriage with likeable layabout Kenneth Thomson, who's happily not tendered as the heavy just for finding someone he likes better, doing us and Kay a favor by easing way for her to hook with Manners. A decades-later pair of Francis bios assured immortality with confirm of offscreen habits surpassing loose life she led in precodes (those diaries!). Man Wanted looks luminous on TCM in HD, and there is a DVD.

3 Comments:

Blogger Filmfanman said...

If this is an example of the kind of movie that could no longer be made after the Code was adopted, then the adoption of that Code was simply a bad thing for American movies. It is far better now with a system of restricted admittance to movies based upon the age of the person seeking admission, for at least movies like this can now be made.
It's still hard for me to believe that there was a time that they couldn't, as the Code was gone long before I reached adulthood.

3:40 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

A thought: Aside from naughty throwaways, how far did precode films actually challenge the status quo? "Erring women" still had to suffer for a non-guaranteed redemption. Mae West was never thus humbled, but then she cannily presented a sympathetic personal morality. In contrast, men who stray might get by with a last-reel repentance, getting to have their cake after eating it. They come home to forgiveness like Harry Langdon at the end of "Long Pants" (which, on revisiting, leaves wide open the nature of his seeming cohabitation with the gun moll).

3:06 PM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

I just now watched "Lawyer Man" with William Powell and Joan Blondell, and I'm not sure that "challenging the status quo" isn't what that film is about.
I mean, the politicians and high-society types are depicted one and all as being a little or a lot crooked, one such character not hesitating to send gun-toting thugs to get their point across, while that same unscrupulous character is shown as being in charge of appointing the DAs and Judges.
Watching this film, I can understand politicians - if this film is accurate in its depictions of big-city political life of those times as being corrupt, that is - being very anxious NOT to have films being shown suggesting corruption as a routine and everyday matter in the administration of large cities, as this one does; in this film, there's no "reform" of the system shown, nor even attempted beyond what the protagonist needs to expose for the settling of his personal scores against a few names, and once they are settled, Powell's character happily drops any idea of trying to further reform the system itself and instead goes back to being a small lawyer, explicitly to help "little guys" to fight the injustices they suffer from this corrupt system - while some of the same fixers Powell was up against are shown as continuing in charge, after a few crooks have been punished and relations have been "adjusted" to Powell's satisfaction.
I can see those who adopted the Production Code hoping to keep the local authorities, and their censorship powers, off the film industry's backs by them agreeing amongst themselves not to produce and show films depicting local graft and corruption - unless it is also shown as being exceptional, and especially as always being punished if not prevented by other "good guys" in the Government.
In this sense, the lack of a production code, in itself, was a "challenge to the status quo" - insofar as the depiction of unpunished and routine corruption in public affairs was even possible.

5:33 PM  

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