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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Drugs for Laughs: Jewel Robbery (1932)

Jewel Robbery 1932 is another one of those amazing Precode films that is unabashedly full of sin - from, sex, drugs, crime and adultery – but never seems to cross the line into unwatchable salaciousness or exploitation. I suppose it is probably due to the incredibly personas and acting of Kay Francis and William Powell along with a light, witty script, beautiful costumes and art deco sets. But Jewel Robbery stands up above all other Precodes for its hilarious treatment of drugs, used to drive a comedic sub-plot. William Powell plays an impeccably mannered robber in Vienna who, during a jewel heist, meets bored, married aristocrat Baroness Teri von Horhenfels (Francis). He tries to subdue her both with threats and subtle persuasion but he can’t seem to detach himself from her. She instantly becomes infatuated with the robber whose manners, “bad boy” appeal and wit is irresistible. They play through the scenes of the robber’s near misses with the law and tempting trysts in the Baronesses rooms and darkened alleys with surprising serenity, charm and steady emotions.

Powell’s character, to the probable shock of modern audiences, uses an unorthodox method to keep the authorities at bay – marijuana. To every witness, policeman and official he offers a harmless “herbal” cigarette and all (except the Baroness) eagerly accept without anticipating the consequences. The result is a hilarious group of scenes with distinguished men howling with laughter and making almost imperceptible jokes, letting the robber slip easily through their clutches. Although it is not mentioned by name, there is no doubt the type of substance that is causing all this amusement, but if you don’t believe take a look at this video I created with all the best bits:
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