The Anti-Damsel Blogathon: Blondie Johnson (1933)

•August 15, 2015 • 9 Comments

SSBlondie1When we first meet Blondie Johnson, she’s begging for help from the Welfare and Relief Association. She tells the unsympathetic operative that she lives in the backroom of a drug store. She and her mother were turned out of their last apartment. They rely on the kindness of their neighbors for food. Her mother is suffering from pneumonia.

The man is unmoved by her tale of woe. A short time later, Blondie hurries back to the drug store, in a driving rainstorm, only to find that her mother has died. She breaks down in hysterical, heart-rending sobs.

It’s the last hint of distressed damsel that you’ll see from this dame.

“I’m going to get money and I’m going to get plenty of it.”

Blondie Johnson (1933) stars the always-fabulous Joan Blondell in the title role of a downtrodden Depression-era woman who transforms her existence from bleak oppression to indisputable triumph. Using her wits, her nerve, and her determination, Blondie starts out as a small-time con artist, but it’s not long before she’s a big-time gangster – her conversion begins shortly after her mother’s death, when the local priest advises her that it’s her job to “do something about [her] circumstances.”

“You’re right, Father. It is up to me. And I’m going to do something,” Blondie replies. “I’m going to get money and I’m going to get plenty of it.” And when the priest cautions her that there are two ways of getting money, Blondie agrees: “The hard way and the easy way.”

Spoken like a true anti-damsel.

Blondie Johnson is one of my favorite pre-Code characters. She was sometimes down, but she was never out. She didn’t take any crap from anybody – friend, foe, or lover. She kept a level head. She was forward-thinking, innovative, and fearless, but not reckless. And she did what she needed to do to get the job done. In different circumstances, she’d have made an ideal corporation head — heck, maybe even president! Don’t believe me? Check out some of Blondie’s anti-damsel acts:

“This city is going to be my oyster, and if you stick with me, you’re going to help me open it.”

  1. Blondie teams up with a cab driver (who, by the way, she tried to fleece at their first meeting) to wrangle cash from soft-hearted locals. One of her targets is Danny Jones (Chester Morris), a known hood who falls for her teary tale of misfortune and shells out ten bucks so she can make it on time to her fake job as a fictional nurse.
  2. After Danny figures out Blondie’s scheme, he confronts her as she’s counting out the evening’s earnings. He first swats her upside the head and then, when she cracks wise, he steps squarely on her foot. Blondie promptly slams her fist on top of his hand, causing Danny to retort in pain, “You’re a fresh dame.”
  3. Instead of shying away, Blondie’s curiosity is piqued when she learns that Danny is the right-hand man to a high-ranking gangster. Before you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” she’s agreed to join Danny in a crafty plot to sway the jury in a murder trial – she not only comes up with the plan, but she skillfully executes it, resulting in a not guilty verdict for Danny’s pal.

    “When I met you, I thought you were a little above the average. But I see I’m wrong.”

  4. When Danny angrily tosses his wallet at Blondie, she gives it back to him: “I don’t want any of it. Not when you throw it at me like you throw slop to a pig,” she says. (What she doesn’t say is that she’d stealthily removed a thousand dollars from the wallet before she self-righteously returned it.)
  5. Danny tries to hit on Blondie. She pushes him off – literally and figuratively:  “I brought you here for business. But you don’t seem to be able to keep your mind on it.” Later, she continues to maintain her resolve, even when she and Danny begin to fall for each other. She admits to a girlfriend that she likes Danny, but adds, “I got plans. Big plans. And the one thing that don’t fit in with them is pants.”

    ‘I found out that the only thing worthwhile is dough. And I’m gonna get it, see?”

  6. Blondie works her way through the ranks of the mob, helps to topple the gang’s leader, and then muscles Danny out of the way, taking over as the head of the organization and operating it like an efficient, well-oiled machine.

And that’s just the beginning!

But in the words of Sir Isaac Newton (not to mention Blood, Sweat and Tears), what goes up must come down – and the same goes for Blondie’s rise to the top. I’ll let you watch the movie to find out the specifics regarding her descent, but I will say this: even in defeat, Blondie kept her head high – anti-damsel to the end.

—————————

This post is part of the Anti-Damsel Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies, Silently, and Joey at The Last Drive-In.

Do yourself a favor and check out the defiant, determined, and dynamic dames being covered in this first-rate event!

You only owe it to yourself, y’know.

Pre-Code Crazy: Sadie McKee (1934)

•August 2, 2015 • 5 Comments

I have to share this with y’all.

My choices for August’s Pre-Code Crazy pick came down to two movies: Sadie McKee (1934) and Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise (1931).

I love Sadie McKee and I’ve seen it, like, a gazillion times. Before today, I’d seen Susan Lenox just once, years ago. It seemed at first that between the two, Sadie McKee was a “gimme” – hands down, no contest. But Susan Lenox, even though I’d seen it only once, had stuck in my head all this time. So I decided to give the nod to Susan, watch the movie again, and write it up as my recommendation to y’all as my selection for the month.

But as you can see from the title of this post, that’s not exactly how things worked out.

For about three-fourths of Susan Lenox, I was firmly on board with it as my pick – but the last 15 minutes or so left me with my brow furrowed and my mouth agape. And not necessarily in a good way. And although I initially planned to still stick with it, I found that, ultimately, I just couldn’t. One of these days, I’ll do a post on it and share the issues I have with the end of the film.

Meanwhile, Sadie McKee it is!!

I feel much better now.

Sadie McKee stars (my girl) Joan Crawford in the title role of a cook’s daughter whose life is transformed by love and by money. Let me explain.

Sadie and Michael in better times.

Sadie and Michael in better times.

As the film begins, we’re introduced to Sadie and her mother (Helen Ware), the cook for the filthy rich Aldersons, whose attorney son, Michael (Franchot Tone), was Sadie’s childhood friend. We also learn that Sadie’s boyfriend, Tommy Wallace (Gene Raymond), worked in the Aldersons’ factory until recently, when he was fired for stealing. While helping her mother during a fancy dinner at the Aldersons, Sadie overhears Michael badmouthing her beau and talking his father out of giving Tommy a second chance. Sadie is peeved, to put it mildly, and tells him off, but good.

Meanwhile, Tommy decides to move to New York to look for another gig, and at the last minute, Sadie throws caution to the winds and joins him. The two make plans to marry, but on the day that they’re to share their I dos, Tommy is a no-show, leaving Sadie with a broken heart and an overdue lodging bill.

It was love at first sight for Jack Brennan.

It was love at first sight for Jack Brennan.

To make ends meet, Sadie gets a job as a dancer in a nightclub where, one night, she catches the eye of Jack Brennan (Edward Arnold), a billionaire who has a pretty serious drinking problem. Brennan is accompanied by his lawyer, who happens to be none other than Michael Alderson. Sadie’s less than pleased to see him, and when Brennan is bowled over by her charms and proposes to her, Sadie accepts, mainly to spite Michael.

I’ll let you find out for yourself what happens next, but I will tell you that you haven’t seen the end of Tommy Wallace, and that the remainder of the film contains several unexpected twists that you won’t see coming. And I’ll also share some of the reasons why I love this movie and watch it so often:

  1. If you know anything about me at all, you know that I love me some Joan Crawford, and she can do no wrong in my book. And her performance in Sadie McKee is no different. When I say she owns this picture, I mean it – she’s in just about every scene, and when she’s not, you wish she was.

    All he does the whole day through is dream of her.

    All he does the whole day through is dream of her.

  2. In addition to his skills as a minor-league thief, Tommy Wallace has a pretty good singing voice and a way with a ukulele – and introduces what has become one of my favorite songs from this era: “All I Do Is Think Of You.” It was written for the movie by Nacio Herb Brown, with lyrics by Arthur Freed. The song ends up being performed several more times throughout the film – which is just all right with me. (Incidentally, the film also features a swinging rendition of “Old Pal” – the more I hear it, the more I want to hear it.)
  3. Sadie’s best friend, Opal, is played by Jean Dixon – a name that, sadly, few film fans recognize. But you’re sure to know her when you see her – she played the wisecracking maid in My Man Godfrey (1936) and Edward Everett Horton’s wife, Susan, in Holiday (1938), along with roles in She Married Her Boss (1935), Swing High, Swing Low (1937), and Joy for Living (1938). She’s a delight in Sadie McKee as the streetwise pal with a heart of gold – the kind of friend we could all use.

    I LOVE this.

    I LOVE this.

  4. After Sadie marries Brennan, she undergoes an immediate wardrobe transformation, courtesy of famed designed Adrian. Her coats with mink sleeves, sleek pantsuits, and art deco-style dresses are simply to die for.
  5. Interestingly, even though Tommy literally leaves Sadie waiting at the altar, she never stops loving him – and never stops making excuses for him. When Michael Alderson remarks that Sadie trusted Tommy and he “let you down,” Sadie protests. “Nothing of the kind,” she says. “He was afraid to take a chance getting married on nothing. He was just weak. He got all turned around.”
  6. The film doesn’t treat alcoholism as a comic device – it’s dealt with as a serious, very real problem. It’s believed to be one of the first Hollywood films to do so.

    Mmm. Pie. From the Automat.

    Mmm. Pie. From the Automat.

  7. One of the film’s scenes takes place in an Automat. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been fascinated by Automats, and wish that I could have gone to one. There’s a crazy-cool dispenser shaped like the head of a duck where Sadie gets a cup of coffee – the coffee and cream come out of the duck’s bill.
  8. Sadie’s first encounter with Brennan takes place when an overaggressive patron at the nightclub grabs ahold of Sadie’s costume during her number. As she struggles with him, Brennan steps in, removes the man’s glasses, and gives his nose a violent twist. As Brennan walks away, the patron calls him a “big mug.”  Later in the scene, after Brennan buys champagne for everyone in the club, you can see this same patron in the background stand and salute Brennan, saying “I take it all back!” It’s kinda funny.

    "I do as I like because I like it."

    “I do as I like because I like it.”

  9. There’s a great scene near the film’s end where Sadie confronts Dolly Merrick, the vaudeville star who was the catalyst for Tommy jilting Sadie. Basically, it’s a fairly civilized exchange – although Sadie does tell Dolly at one point: “I could kill you and love it.” Oh, and she also pushes Dolly into a wardrobe hamper. Good stuff.
  10. And lastly, here’re a coupla bits of trivia – Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone got married the year after Sadie McKee was released.  (They divorced four years later.) Also, this film marked Leo G. Carroll’s screen debut – he portrayed Brennan’s butler. And, one more – scenes from Sadie McKee were used in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

That’s it. Sadie McKee airs on August 10th, during Joan Crawford day, part of TCM’s fabulous Summer Under the Stars event. Check it out and see why it’s one of my favorites – and don’t forget to pop over to Speakeasy and find out what pre-Code gem Kristina is recommending this month.

You only owe it to yourself.

1947 Blogathon: Day 3 Recap

•July 15, 2015 • 4 Comments

TomIt was delightful! It was delicious! It was delovely!

It was Day 3 of the 1947 Blogathon!

The third and final day of this fabulous event was jam-packed with scrumptious posts from a variety of talented bloggers – so grab yourself a snack, settle back, and enjoy today’s awesome offerings!

 

The Cinematic Frontier knows all about The Lady from Shanghai.

The Motion Pictures tells us what Bogie’s up to in Dark Passage.

Sister Celluloid gives us the low-down on The Man I Love.

Movies Silently accessorizes with Golden Earrings.

The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood knows that you should never Cry Wolf.

Critica Retro takes the Road to Rio.

Seven Doors of Cinema shares the magic of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Girls Do Film solves the riddle of The Lady from Shanghai.

A Shroud of Thoughts takes a peek inside Jassy.

Noirish goes inside Heartaches.

Reel Distracted knows better than to Ride the Pink Horse.

Speakeasy takes a ride down Trail Street.

Shadows and Satin knows why it’s so scary when The Devil Thumbs a Ride.

Motion Picture Gems says Welcome Stranger!

Day3n

Silver Screen Modes takes a look at the Noir Films of 1947.

Silver Scenes whispers about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Thanks so much to all the great posters today! Be sure to visit Speakeasy tomorrow, where Kristina will provide a mammoth wrap-up of this super-cool event!

The 1947 Blogathon: The Devil Thumbs a Ride (or, Why Picking Up Hitchhikers is a BAD Idea)

•July 14, 2015 • 12 Comments

Admittedly, I haven’t seen every movie Lawrence Tierney was in, but I can’t imagine that he ever played the romantic lead or the goofy but lovable sidekick. No, he was just too perfect as the bad guy – the guy who’d kill you as soon as look at you. The guy who didn’t give a hoot that you had a loving wife at home. The guy who was the very embodiment of the term “self-preservation.”

The guy like Steve Morgan, Tierney’s character in The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947).

Not five minutes into this 1947 RKO noir, Steve Morgan kills a hapless bank employee, then hitches a ride with another guy who’s also lacking in the luck department: Jimmy Ferguson (Ted North). Ferguson is terribly in love with his wife of two years and is in a big hurry to get home to her – but the cocktails he enjoyed at a surprise birthday/anniversary party have apparently impaired his judgment to the point where he not only gives a lift to Morgan, but also to two dames he meets in a gas station – Carol (Nan Leslie) and Agnes (Betty Lawford). Instead of ending up safe and sound in sunny L.A., though, this ill-fated foursome spends a harrowing night at a beach house in Newport, where Morgan demonstrates the meaning of the film’s title to all and sundry.

Too close for comfort.

Too close for comfort.

A low-budget noir that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat, The Devil Thumbs a Ride is not only entertaining, but it also serves as a cautionary

tale on the importance of keeping your car doors locked and your windows rolled up tight. And just in case you’re getting any ideas of being charitable the next time you hit the road, take a look at a few of Morgan’s awful actions and dastardly deeds:

  1. He deliberately tries to turn a traffic cop into road kill with Ferguson’s car. (Incidentally, Morgan rationalizes his transgression to his fellow passengers by telling a sob story about being sent to a reform school as a kid and growing up hating cops. “Even now, whenever I see one, my blood runs cold.” Boo hoo.)
  2. While the others settle in at the Newport beach house, Morgan steps outside to breathe in some fresh air, have a quick smoke – and flatten the tires on Ferguson’s car. Just in case he was planning to… I don’t know…leave or something.
  3. When Ferguson insists on trying to find alternate transportation options, Morgan tips out of the room and disconnects the phone.

    My name is Ferguson. Ferguson! FERGUSON!!

    My name is Ferguson. Ferguson! FERGUSON!!

  4. Unfazed when the local night watchman shows up at the beach house, Morgan invites him to join the party and proceeds to ply him with liquor until the watchman isn’t watching anything but the inside of his eyelids.
  5. One minute, Morgan is scamming Carol with tall tales of his “connections” in Hollywood. The next he’s forcing his kisses on her and slapping her around. And then… well, I don’t think I should say any more.
  6. After swiping Ferguson’s wallet, Morgan knocks him out cold, then assumes his identity, snowing the local sheriff with a stirring yarn about how HE picked up Ferguson! “When we got here, we asked the guy in for a drink with us and he started to get ugly drunk!” And the sheriff buys it!

I’ll stop there – but if these don’t serve as enough of a reason for you to speed on by if you see any Steve Morgan types on the side of the highway, well I just don’t know what will. But don’t be skeered of checking out Morgan’s antics The Devil Thumbs a Ride from the comfort and safety of your own home. You’ll be glad you did.

After all, you only owe it to yourself.

———–

This post is part of the 1947 Blogathon, hosted by Kristina, of Speakeasy, and yours truly. Check out the wrap-up of posts on Day 1 and Day 2!

1947 Blogathon: Day 2 Recap

•July 14, 2015 • 4 Comments

Originally posted on Speakeasy:

It’s been another wonderful day celebrating the films of 1947, with many bloggers investigating crime and noir, while others highlight comedy and foreign cinema. Lots of memorable stories and performances to enjoy in this collection of posts:

Medium shot for "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" of Johnny Sands as Jerry White and Shirley Temple as Susan Turner sitting with students in High School auditorium. .

Now Voyaging: The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer

boom

Vienna’s Classic Hollywood: Boomerang! 

dick-tracy-new-old-guy

Fights, Tights and Movie Nights: Dick Tracy’s Dilemma

born-to-kill

Everything Noir: Born to Kill

thistime

Love Letters to Old Hollywood: This Time for Keeps

wond

Brian Camp’s Film & Anime Blog:  Postwar Hope and Despair in One Wonderful Sunday and Violence

odd

The Fluff is Raging: Odd Man Out 

oct

Book ’em, Danno!: The October Man 

darkp

In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood: Dark Passage

framed3

Twenty Four Frames: Framed

they

Portraits by Jenni: They Won’t Believe Me!

ootp

The Stop Button: Out of the Past

angel-and-the-badman-4

Movie Classics: Angel and the Badman

196-tyrone-power-theredlist

Back to Golden Days: Nightmare Alley

That’s today’s group of 1947 movies, catch up on yesterday’s posts here, and…

View original 9 more words

1947 Blogathon: Day 1 Recap

•July 14, 2015 • 26 Comments

Day 1 of the 1947 Blogathon has been absolutely marvelous, truly stupendous, positively outstanding — just downright GREAT! Today’s posts have run the gamut from the exquisite nuns of Black Narcissus to the frenetic antics of Tom and Jerry and everything in between, and we are simply tickled pink! 

So join us in taking a gander at the Day 1 offerings, won’t you?

Now Voyaging takes us inside Black Narcissus.

Silver Screenings tells us all about that man-crazy Shirley Temple in The Bachelor and The Bobby Soxer.

B Noir Detour looks at the goings-on in A Double Life.

Caftan Woman makes the introductions in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome.

Moon in Gemini takes us inside the world of Forever Amber.

Movie Movie Blog Blog has a thing or two to say about the Three Stooges in Hold That Lion.

Defiant Success knows the ins and outs of Odd Man Out.

Pop Culture Reverie tells us that there’s Something in the Wind.

Sepia Stories says you’ll love The Perils of Pauline.

Old Hollywood Films takes a dip with the Lady in the Lake.

Mike’s Take on the Movies takes on Variety Girl.

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and you’ll love Magic Town.

Motion Pictures Gems shines the light on the Tom and Jerry Shorts of 1947.

Wide Screen World takes us inside the shadow world of the T-Men.

Serendipitous Anachronisms knows all about Monsieur Verdoux.

Once Upon a Screen gives us the Queen of Catatonia in Possessed.

Criterion Blues shows us the beauty of Black Narcissus.

Movies Silently conquers Unconquered.

Love Letters to Old Hollywood writes a love letter to Song of the Thin Man.

Cinemaven’s Essays from the Couch goes inside The Macomber Affair.

That’s it for today’s crop of great films from 1947! Join Kristina at Speakeasy tomorrow for more awesome offerings!

Pre-Code Crazy: Finishing School (1934)

•July 3, 2015 • 5 Comments

SSFinishing1Typically, when I review the TCM pre-Code line-up for a given month, several films jump out at me as possible picks for our Pre-Code Crazy series. For the month of July, I’d almost reviewed the entire month before even a single movie caught my fancy – and boy, was I glad to see this one listed! Airing on TCM on July 30th, Finishing School stars Ginger Rogers and Francis Dee as roommates in a ritzy boarding school and opens with the most unique credits I’ve seen in a while:  The Girl played by Frances Dee; Her Mother, Billie Burke; Her Father, John Halliday; Her Pal, Ginger Rogers . . . and as “The Snob,” the camera pulls back to offer a shot of the school of the title: Crockett Hall.

We learn from the school’s marketing brochure that “in accepting young ladies for enrollment as students at Crockett Hall, consideration is given only to those families of breeding and inheritance who naturally wish their daughters to be fitted for carrying on the highest societal traditions. Crockett Hall offers more than an education . . . It provides a high degree of protection from the less desirable associations.” The Snob, indeed!

Always obey the rules.

Always obey the rules.

“The Girl” in the credits is Virginia Radcliff (Dee), who is just being accepted into Crockett Hall, which is the alma mater of her flighty, fast-talking mother, played by Billie Burke.  Virginia is nothing like her mother, who greets the school’s director, Miss Van Alstyne (played by a blonde Beulah Bondi), by observing that she “looks like a painting by, uh, some painter.” No, Virginia is quiet, demure, and rather reserved and sheltered. And if you think she’s going to stay that way, well, baby, you just don’t know pre-Code!

Miss Van Alstyne runs down the rules of the joint (no lipstick, no smoking, and “naturally, we don’t drink!”) before introducing Virginia to her new roomie, Cecelia “Pony” Ferris (Rogers). And while Pony may come from, as Miss Van Alstyne describes, “a fine old family,” she’s certainly no stick-in-the-mud. Case in point: when the director and Virginia reach the room, they find that the door is locked – a violation of another one of the rules. Pony opens the door, explaining that her trunk “just happened to be against it.” And when Miss Van Alstyne leaves, Pony jams a chair under the doorknob, sparks up a cigarette that she withdraws from beneath her mattress, and drops some knowledge about the school’s mandates: “They just make those prissy rules to please our parents. So the old folks won’t mind the genteel racketeering that goes on. . . . You’re supposed to do exactly as you please in this old ladies’ home for nice young gals. Just don’t get caught, that’s all.”

Rule Number 1: You'll make more friends if you share your liquor.

Rule Number 1: You’ll make more friends if you share your liquor.

Virginia also meets two other residents, Ruth (Marjorie Lytell) and Maggie (Adalyn Doyle), who literally start scuffling on the floor over a bottle of liquor they find in Virginia’s suitcase. Pony happily produces a corkscrew (“I’d sooner be caught without a toothbrush!”), but Virginia refuses to let them open it – the RULES, dontcha know? – and actually smashes the bottle to smithereens. This doesn’t go over too big with her new cohabitants, as you can well imagine, but Virginia later redeems herself by taking the fall over a note being passed in class by Pony. Afterward, the quartet becomes as thick as thieves – so thick, in fact, that the other girls invite Virginia to join them on their latest jaunt into the big city (wherein they hire an actress to pose as Pony’s “Aunt Jessica” so the school will think everything’s on the up and up). The girls head for a suite at the Waldorf Hotel, where Pony’s boyfriend, Chuck, and a blind date, Bill, for Virginia, are waiting.

At the hotel, Virginia successfully fulfills a long-term goal to “get tight,” but when Bill tries to take advantage of her inebriated state, she’s rescued by a hotel waiter – and, as it turns out, a medical intern – by the name of Ralph “Mac” McFarland (Bruce Cabot), who drives her back to school. (Incidentally, when Virginia is busted by Miss Van Alystyne, getting dropped off at the school in the wee hours of the morning, the school’s director gives her a dressing down, but not the one Virginia would have expected: “I can’t imagine a girl cheapening herself so completely. You surely knew enough not to drive up in front of the school at this hour of the morning,” Miss Van Alstyne lectures. “The least one expects of a lady is the nicety to cover her indiscretions. You have certain obligations as a student of this school. And the most important of these is to maintain appearances.” In other words, as Virginia herself points out, do whatever you want – just don’t let anybody see you doing it.)

Virginia and Mac meet cute. (Well, not that cute, 'cause she was loaded, but you get the idea.)

Virginia and Mac meet cute. (Well, not that cute, ’cause she was loaded, but you get the idea.)

As you may have guessed, Virginia and Ralph soon become an item – but to tell you any more would be giving away too much. I’ll just say that it’s pure pre-Code from here on out, and count on you to tune in to TCM on July 30th to find out what I mean. You’ll be glad you did.

Meanwhile, here’s some other stuff about the film:

A young, brunette Anne Shirley – billed as “Dawn O’Day” – had a small part in the film as a particularly annoying resident of Crockett Hall.

Finishing School was directed by Wanda Tuchock and George Nicholls, Jr. This is the first time I can recall seeing a classic film with co-directors, and because I’d never heard of either of these people, I did a little digging. Nicholls also directed Anne of Green Gables (which starred Anne Shirley, and from which she took her second and final “reel” name), but he was primarily known as an editor – his credits include The Dance of Life and The Devil’s Holiday, both which starred Nancy Carroll, as well as The Silver Cord, Double Harness, and Ann Vickers. He died in 1939 at the age of 42 from injuries he received in a car accident. As for Tuchock, she was better known as a screenwriter – in fact, she was one of the writers for Finishing School. She also contributed to the screenplays for Hallelujah, Letty Lynton, The Champ, and Little Orphan Annie, among others.

The film’s executive producer was Merian C. Cooper, one of the directors of 1933’s King Kong.

These gals had big bucks.

These gals had big bucks.

Near the start of the film, we see that the tuition for Crockett Hall was $6,000. In today’s dollars, that would be approximately $106,400. Also, Virginia’s parents send her a check for $1,000 as a Christmas present – equivalent to about $17,700 today. Needless to say, the Radcliff family weren’t exactly living paycheck to paycheck.

On Virginia’s application for the school, her family’s last name is “Radcliff.” But in the film’s credits at the end, it’s spelled “Radcliffe.” Hmm.

One of my many favorite lines in the film was delivered by Irene Franklin, who played Pony’s fake Aunt Jessica. After Pony pays her $5 for the job, “Aunt Jessica” brags that she’s shared a stage with some of the greats, including the patriarch of the Barrymore acting family, Maurice. She goes on, however, to lament: “One step lower, and I’ll be in the movies.”

Listen for the scene where Ginger Rogers sings in the shower, “Never Hit Your Grandma With a Shovel.”

Pony's secretly reading a book called "Purple Passion." (Maybe that was one of the objections of the church!)

Pony’s secretly reading a book called “Purple Passion.” (Maybe that was one of the objections of the church!)

Theresa Harris has a bit part in the film as the maid of Virginia’s mother. In case you don’t recognize her name, she’s a black actress you might remember from Baby Face, where she had a prominent role as  Barbara Stanwyck’s confidante and constant comrade. She can also be seen in such classics as Golddiggers of 1933, Jezebel, The Women, and Out of the Past.

Another actress with an uncredited role is Jane Darwell, perhaps best known as Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. In Finishing School, Darwell can be seen in a couple of scenes as a nurse with a really funky attitude.

Finishing School was placed on the Catholic Church’s “condemned” film list in 1934. And if that doesn’t make you want to watch it, well, I just don’t know what will!

Tune in to TCM on July 30th for Finishing School! And don’t forget to pop over to Speakeasy to read all about the pre-Code gem Kristina has picked out for you this month!

 
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