Sunday 29 July 2012

Film Review: "Beauty and the Boss" (1932)

This is a review of the second last and my favourite  film in my Marian Marsh series, "Beauty and the Boss" (1932).


Suzy Sachs (Marian Marsh) is what they call a ‘Church Mouse’. She is poor, unemployed, voiceless and part of the thousands of other girls in the same situation. Suzy spends her days spying into shop windows staring enviously at strangers and their hot meals as well as looking for work.

On her daily rounds, she enters the office of Baron Josef von Ullrich (Warren William) the head of a profitable and powerful banking firm. She tricks the Baron into seeing her and he is instantly amazed by her energy, brains and efficiency and immediately employs her. However, the Baron being a man of discipline and business sees Suzy only as a machine and likes to enjoy his pleasures outside of business hours.

Soon she is accompanying the Baron on a business deal in Paris along with the young and handsome Baron Paul von Ullrich (David Manners) and the Count von Tolheim (Frederick Kerr). Suzy longs to experience the Paris nightlife and to be admired but Baron Josef is all business; although, Paul seems to have developed a crush on her.

To Suzy’s surprise, beautiful women of the world begin appearing in her office wanting to see the Baron, she – disgusted and a little envious – refuses them entry and the Baron is unaware of his visitors. Finally, the merger is successful, with the help of Suzy; the company has made a large profit from the deal. Elated, the Baron suggests Suzy goes out and sees Paris accompanied, not by him, but the delighted Frederick and Baron Paul. Angry, Suzy confesses that she has kept women from seeing him and he immediately sets up a date with his favourite and ex-secretary Ollie Fray (Mary Doran).
Baron and his list of women
Suzy goes up to Ollie’s hotel room ready to scold her but in the process finds out what she really wants out of life and is determined to go on the town lively, beautiful and irresistible. The Church Mouse has blossomed into a beautiful butterfly and intends on attracting the Baron’s attention and love – but not with some help from his favourite “mistress”.  
Suzy confronts Ollies


This is my favourite Precode Marian Marsh. She is beautiful, joyous and enchantingly sweet and naïve. Like, in “Under 18” (1931), Warren William is her love interest as the efficient, capable business man whose mind turns to alluring women when the working day is over. These women, of which there are many, create the Precode moments that make this film truly modern and adult. My favourite is the seductive and much overlooked Mary Doran. She is a woman of the world, with lovely lingerie and perfume and knowledge of how to seduce a man. Mary is fabulous as the sweet Ollie with hard edge who tries to catch the Baron. Although, perhaps she is overtaken by the enchanting Marion in the final scenes with her flattering white gown, crimped hair and makeup. Her transformation is wonderful and I can see why all the men fawn over her.
Like most of Marian’s films, Precode moments seem to creep in, there is several mainly shots of lingerie and the revealing flash of one of Barons many admirers nude in the bathtub.

Also the Baron’s aid Ludwig (Charles Butterworth) appears to go on a binge late in the movie indulging in women, alcohol and several Moulin Rouge type shows. Lastly, you can’t forget Warren whose films always have sexual innuendo and sly comments which this film has plenty.

Ollie's Innuendo

“I’m hanging over your head like a ripe peach, if you’d only give the tree a little shake.” Ollie Fray

"I know I’m not much out of the ordinary – a little bit pretty, a little bit wise, a little bit willing, a little bit absent minded.” Ollie Fray
“Are you absent minded tonight?” Baron
“Oh, very.” Ollie Fray

This film perfectly displays Marion’s charm and screen persona. I’m happy in the fact that it doesn’t have as many poverty/ depression-era scenes, such as, the ones in ‘Notorious but Nice” or “Under 18” that I think made it more light and enjoyable. It was a lovely rags to riches, Cinderella cross with Beauty and the Beast story perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.       

This is a long quote but it is my favourite scene of the film between Ollie Fray and Suzy Sachs:

“What a child you are, don’t you know when a man is told he can’t see a woman, nothing keeps him from her. Tonight you turned me into a sort of forbidden fruit. And you remember what happened to Adam.” Ollie Fray
“Yes he got mixed up with a snake.”
“Well you’ve thrown him right into the snakes arms.” Ollie Fray
“How vulgar you are.” Suzy Sachs
“If its vulgar to be in a man’s arms, I hope I never get refined.” Ollie Fray
“He’s different he’s not the sort to fall for a person like you.” Suzy Sachs
“What’s the matter with me?” Ollie Fray
“You’re nothing just beautiful that’s all.” Suzy Sachs
“Since you’re tossing around bouquets I’ll hand you one.  You’re a quite very pretty girl yourself, a very decent figure, a very sweet little shape but it’s no use to you, you don’t know what to do with it.” Ollie Fray
“What do you mean by that?” Suzy Sachs
“You don’t know how to make men realise you have it. Your one ambition is to be a perfect machine. But you’ve never learned how to be women.” Ollie Fray
“I don’t know what he sees in a creature like you.” Suzy Sachs
“He sees someone who’s warm and human. Whose skin is soft and perfumed and who isn’t afraid to let herself go. He’s a live wire.” Ollie Fray

Blink and you will miss it....

Friday 27 July 2012

Great Recasting: I'll have it Rocky with a hint of Cagney

This is my contribution to the 'Great Recasting Blogathon':

Like most of the classic film bloggers, I had a problem finding a post-1965 movie that I loved enough and had enough knowledge of to recast. My other issue was that at the beginning I made the decision that I was going to change the film into a Precode classic. Precode movies are very grounded in the political, social and financial situation of the early 1930’s and are not easily transferable from decade to decade.

I finally centred on the ‘Rocky’ series. I had great memories of sitting around the television on Saturday night watching it; my brother explaining every scene and my younger sister crying when the boxing began. Also, Sylvester Stallone is just plain lovable. When you look at the series it has a lot of Precode elements, such as, gangsters (or the modern form of them), glorifying the underdog and a raw look at society with lots of humour. It was an easy choice.  

The Leading Man

Hmmm. I needed someone with masculinity, a rough edge but with a lovable core and quick wit. I first thought of Paul Muni – he sort of looked Italian and with his ‘Scarface’ (1932) he could play a boxer with a past as a loan collector in backstreet Philadelphia. But where was the kind-heart and soft interior? Only James Cagney could pull it off. He has that humour and serenity that made Rocky so popular but the manliness to enter a boxing ring. Although, he wouldn’t have the slow, dull accent of Sylvester Stallone, his high pitched, fast talking language would bring another interesting element to the role.
Sylvester and James compared:

Rocky Boxing
Perfect choice!!!!

His Lady

Rocky’s leading lady, the quiet and supportive Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire), is not really a woman of Precode. She lets him take control, she supports him and doesn’t speak her mind until later in the series – hardly the modern woman that Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer portrayed in the 30’s. I had to mix it up a bit and Rocky had two possible wives. First was the buzzing, melancholy and almost always played stereotypically as the good girl gone bad, Ann Dvorak.
Ann as Adrian?
On the other hand, Adrian could have a light side, be quietly confident and memorable as the lovely Joan Blondell. My choice - not matter what physical resemblance Ann and Talia may have – is always Joan. After several films together it’s no denying Joan and James have wonderful chemistry. They feed off each other to perfection and, if you look at Joan’s performance as the loyal secretary in ‘Footlight Parade’, you could imagine Joan playing the supportive Adrian.

I choose Joan...

The Extras
I didn’t take as much time deciding who was to play supporting roles in the Precode ‘Rocky’ but here are a few of my favourites.

Ned Sparks as Micky Goldmill. He is slight, tough, street smart, perfect.
Ned Sparks

Fred Kelsey as Adrian’s annoying brother Paulie Pennino.

Although not as cute as Apollo Creed, I cast the tough, character actor Wallace Beery as the heavy champion Rocky must defeat. Plus, he already played a boxer in his Academy Award winning role ‘The Champ’.

The Director

This one was a no-brainer. Only one director created more hard-hitting, depression era Precodes than William A. Wellman. Known for such dramas as ‘Public Enemy’ (1931), ‘Night Nurse’ (1931) and ‘Midnight Mary’ (1933) he would be the perfect overseer to depict the harsh reality yet humour of Rocky’s life in Philadelphia.  
It's too bad time machines haven't been invented, I would've love to see this combination in this famous modern film.

Blink and you will miss it...

Sunday 22 July 2012

Marian in 'New Movie' Magazine

These are some beautiful pictures taken from the 'New Movie' Magazine from December, 1931. These picture don't belong to me, they cam from this amazing blog called, Allure. It can be found by clicking here.

Blink and you will miss it....

Notorious but Nice (1933)

Another of Marian’s virtuous roles as the young girl whose clouded past has prejudiced some people against her but one man who always wants her as his wife, in ‘Notorious but Nice’ (1933).


Like all Marian films it begins happily, with Jenny (Marian Marsh) arguing with her boyfriend Richard Hamilton (Donald Dillaway) over whether or not they should marry.  Although she is pretty, the history of her family is unknown and she is employed as a lowly secretary at his place of work. Dick listens to her protestations, but they agree to marry.
No one is happy about this decision, especially Dick’s boss John Martin (John St. Polis) who actively tries and to break them up.
          “The boy has to be saved, of course.”

He starts small, but hiring nightclub hostess and Jenny’s neighbour, Millie Sprague (silent star Betty Compson) to spy on her and tries to lure Jenny into the arms of other men to prevent her marrying Richard.
          “Don’t fall for the first guy that makes a play for you, be like me… you know, look around.”

Betty and Marian

That doesn’t seem to work and the couple begin house-hunting, adamant that their futures should be together. John – or Mr Martin to Jenny – whose actions were an enigma up to this put are suddenly visible, when we are introduced to his spoilt daughter Constance (Rochelle Hudson) who also has an interest in Richard. Perhaps due to Constance or the report of Jenny’s that her past is fabricated, he fires her and vows that he will ruin her. First, he removes Dick by sending him on business to Montana.
Starving, homeless and without Dick’s help, Jenny becomes ill and relies on Millie – whose is guilty about her past treatment of Jenny – to nurse her back to health. Months later, Jenny meets handsome sweet-taking gangster Joe Charney (J. Carrol Naish) at a boozy party and, with Dick’s apparent abandonment, she impulsively marries him.
            “It ain’t so green as it was.” Man to his bottle of liquor
            “No, she isn’t.” Millie looking at Jenny.

Joe showers her with beautiful clothes, a large apartments and servants – all appears to be well and he seems to adore her. This is until, Jenny out with her husband and Millie bumps into Richard who is with his fiancée Constance. Millie, loyal to Jenny and still guilty about her past actions, confronts Richard and tells him the truth.

Millie confronts Dick

When Jenny and Joe go to talk in his office, Joe is shot and Jenny, found holding the gun, is instantly implicated. Millie goes to see Richard and tells him that he is responsible for the shooting. He pays for her defence team. Meanwhile Jenny refuses to plead guilty and is up for the death sentence. Only the truth about her past and the identity of her real father will save Jenny from the electric chair.

Marian behind bars
Having watched a couple, Marian Marsh films it’s obvious that she always plays the same character – virtuous, smart and innocent but with temptation always at her feet. In saying that, she pulls those roles off amazingly and her appearances perfectly match her traits. However, in ‘Notorious but Nice’ (1933) compared to ‘Under 18’ (1931) or ‘Beauty and the Boss’ (1932 which I will be reviewing in the next couple of days) she is not so radiant or memorable. Perhaps this is due to the strong performance of silent star Betty Compson the slightly older nightclub hostess that spy on Jenny for Mr Martin. She often takes the attention away from Marian, moves the plot forward, gets characters to meet and controls the flow of conversation. Although, she isn’t as naturally beautiful as her silent era days – the bleached hair and thick, pale makeup may be to blame – her wise-cracking, woman of the world attitude is perfect against Marian Marsh’s quiet, angel-like appearance.  
The show-stopping Betty
It is a usual Precode drama filled with a plot that could have been taken from depression era newspapers.  The Precode moments include poverty, gangsters, murder, alcohol, parties as well as the virtuous character and the women of the world.
I loved Marian, I loved Betty and I found the plot entertaining but there was something missing. It seemed to mirror Marian’s other movies that I loved in design and characters; however, the strong male characters were missing. In both ‘Under 18’ (1931) and ‘Beauty and the Boss’ (1932), Marian was juxtaposed by the remarkable Warren William and in ‘Svengali’  (1931), no one would call John Barrymore weak. But that’s what Joe, Dick, Millie’s ‘partner’ Tuffy Kraft (Dewey Robinson) and even Mr Martin was. I did like the film, it was modern, adult and had a great twist ending, but a strong male lead would make the movie even better.


Tuffy: “I’m kinda tired of looking at the back of your neck.”
Millie: “Tell me something I want to know and I’ll show you my face.”

Millie: “Say, you lay a hand on me and I’ll sock you so hard you shirt will run up your spin like a window shade.”

Millie: “Come on you big lug, do your thinking afterwards.”

Blink and you will miss it...

Thursday 19 July 2012

Lessons from Precode Hollywood

Precode films are not only enjoyable, but educational. Several ladies of the early talkies have taught me alot about life and how to behave. Here are my top five:

1) No Matter What, Try and Have Fun
Teacher: Mae West (who else)
When: "Im No Angel" (1933)

Mae West is all about having fun. Even as, Tira - the dancer/ lion-tamer - during the trial where her true love has refused to marry her, she remained witty, upbeat and in control. I have tried to embody her free spirited behaviour and sense of humour.

She is always smiling...

2) Savour Your Best Moments
Teacher: Greta Garbo
When: "Queen Christina" (1933)

Not only, did Greta's triumph in "Queen Christina" break boundaries which respect to gay/ lesbians in film and the presentation of sophisticated adult content, it it also highly educational. Greta and her wonderful scene after her night with her real life and on-screen lover John Gilbert, shows audiences the beauty in savouring the important moments.


3) Be a Good Hostess
Teacher: Ruth Chatterton
When: Female (1931)

Whether with her work colleagues, school friends or men she is trying to seduce, Ruth Chatterton is always the perfect hostess. I don't no if it is the hospitality, constant food and drink available, witty conversation or the offer of a bed to stay the night that make Ruth so successful, but I don't have any other explanation.

At Ruth's everyone is taken care of...

4) In Life, Remember What You Love the Most (even when you think it is gone)
Teacher: Norma Shearer
When: "The Divorcee" (1930)

"The Divorcee" is generally known as a chronicle of sin and frivolity, but even in this there is a lesson. Although people usually criticise the end of the film for being anti-women and chauvinistic, Norma's character feels a renewed love for her husband and they reunite in the final scene.

5) Women Can Do Anything
Teacher: Kay Francis
When: "Man Wanted" (1932), "Mary Stevens M.D." (1933), "Dr Monica" (1934)

Sorry to all the males out there, Precode is mostly centred on the concerns and problems of women. Kay Francis proves that despite gender prejudice, she can succeed in any profession she wants. Kay is always confident and capable in medicine and business showing women can do anything.

Blink and you will miss it....

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Marian in the Country

Marian Marsh was a great lover of the environment and conservation projects so its not surprising that there is an abundance of pictures of her in the great outdoors!!!

Marian Marsh
Flower Power

Marian Marsh
Playing dress-ups

Marian and her hobbies:

Marian Marsh

Marian Marsh            

Marian Marsh         

Marian Marsh

And swimming (or just looking good)
Marian Marsh

Blink and you will miss it....

Saturday 14 July 2012

Under 18 (1931): Film Review

The first in my Marian Marsh marathon, the cute but realistic depression era flick, “Under 18”.


The film begins, optimistically, with a wedding. Sophie Evans (Anita Page) is marrying Alf (Norman Foster) in the prosperity of pre-depression era America. Her sister Madge (Marian Marsh) dreams of the same happiness that her sister is experiencing – a stable lifestyle and a loving husband.
But it doesn’t last.  Three years later, as financial ruin inflicts the nation, the Evans family is no different. With the death of Pop Evans, Madge and her mother lose their main source of income and are forced to move to a rundown apartment in the poor slums of the city.

Even though she is happy with her deliveryman boyfriend Jimmy (Regis Toomey), Madge is not content with her situation and dreams of a life of wealth and luxury.

Madge: “I’m sick of everything…Of being poor.”
Madge and Jimmy

A knock at the door late at night, makes her situation worse. Sophie has returned, also feeling the burden of the “Great Depression” and her husband not willing to take a job, asks to stay with Madge bringing the addition of their newborn baby.

Meanwhile, Madge’s work doesn’t provide her with good influences. She is a seamstress at a clothing business that also employs a group of models that boast about their expensive possessions and the wealthy men that give it to them. When the models go to lunch, the store owner finds that he needs a model to showcase a new fur coat to a wealthy man and his girlfriend. He prevails upon Madge and, elated, she accepts. Enter Warren William.
Warren and his leer

Raymond Harding (Warren William) is a bored millionaire chaperoning his girlfriend Babsy (Claire Todd) on her shopping excursions. Madge opens the coat to show the lining and reveals a glimpse of her lingerie. This makes Raymond take notice. He is immediately transfixed by her beauty, innocence and sincerity.
Jimmy on Raymond: “I know all about him, he’s girl nutty.”

Understandably, Jimmy is jealous; he doesn’t trust Raymond’s motives and wants a declaration from Madge that she will marry him. His method works and they become engaged. Although, Madge is euphoric, the drama doesn’t end. The next morning in the midst of another of their customary arguments, Alf punches Sophie and runs out of the apartment. She immediately wants a divorce; her situation affects Madge and she is resolute that she will not become like her sister and declares she will never marry.

Madge: “I made up my mind that when I give myself to a man for life, its cash on delivery.”

But to get Sophie a divorce, Madge needs $200 from her male friends. Her employer refuses, her model friends refuse and so does Jimmy; therefore, Madge takes the only option available to her, Raymond Harding. She boldly goes up to his apartment - a luxurious penthouse where the party is 24 hours a day.
Party central!!!
He convinces her to join the party and his servant leads her to Raymond’s den (a large lavish room with lots of bench-seats) with the purpose of changing into a swimsuit. As she is changing, Raymond comes in and begins feeding her champagne and trying to seduce her. But instead of going further, he relents. In a moment of weakness, he sees her virtue and innocent love for Jimmy and chooses not to corrupt it and her like the other girls.They are in the room when Jimmy arrives and the trouble starts.  
Does Madge choose Jimmy or Raymond?

“Under 18” is a cute depression era film about a virtuous girl whose entire world is persuading her towards a life moving from one rich man to another. Because the plot is heavily centred on the problems of the “Great Depression” it should be dated and irrelevant - in some ways it is – however, overall the issues Madge Evans (Marian Marsh) has to face are modern troubles. She has to choose between money and a life of true happiness. These are deep topics but instead the film is full of light-hearted moments and warmth.  Most of this quality comes from Marian Marsh whose elfin looks, brilliant smile and soft acting techniques change the entire air of the film which would have been harsher if Ann Dvorack or Joan Blondell were given the part. Her relationship with the kind and lovable Jimmy adds another layer of sweetness and light to a film that should be dark and depressing.
The beautiful Marian

And of course there’s Warren William as Raymond Harding and his great leer. No one actor is more appealingly sleazy or more apologetically so. Although, he doesn’t look so hot in a bathing suit, Raymond is obviously a ladies’ man.
Warren in a swim suit, he doesn't really fill it out...
He has a closet full of expensive women’s clothing next to a room entirely filled with alcohol and a servant that understands how his ‘system’ works. He has list of readily available comebacks and sexual innuendo prepared to seduce an array of young women. He is the master of sin but, in a twist, shows his soft side at the end by choosing to help Madge and extricate her from the corrupting influences of himself and his “lady friends”.    

The movie is filled with Precode moments. Alf (Norman Foster) provides a lot of the questionable scenes; he is a supposed gambler, likes to drink, refuses to work and in his last onscreen appearance bashes his wife to the point that she demands a divorce.  Like most films from this era, there is constant dressing and undressing; mostly involving the models at the shop who spend the majority of the film in lingerie and Madge when changing from different outfits.

Similarly, it wouldn’t be a Warren William film without sexual comments and the odd scene with his character bobbing a woman around the water on blow-up toy while she giggles wildly.
I didn't know what to think of this scene...
These are a few of his remarks below:
            “Why not take off your clothes and stay awhile.” Raymond to Madge.

“How will you pay the money back?” Raymond
“From my salary.Something each week.” Madge
            “Oh. Wouldn’t you take it as a gift.” Raymond

“Yes. If it’s necessary. I suppose that’s the only way you lend money to girls like me.” Madge
            “Yes, that seems to be the customary arrangement.” Raymond

And, overall, landscapes of the depression are constantly in focus – dirty streets and slum-like housing and desperate people covered in dirt and worn-out clothing. 

To see this film and fully appreciate the underlining messages, it is a necessity to understand the depression and its effects on the American people. However, on another (and the best) level it is a sweet virtue versus sin story with lovable characters and a satisfying happy ending.  Another great Precode film, but perhaps I am biased.
Happy ending

Jimmy to Madge: “There is so much grief and so much happiness in everyone’s life. You never know what’s around the corner. And most of your troubles come from trying to find out.”

Blink and you will miss it....