Little-Known Gems: Wicked Woman (1953)

•April 16, 2018 • 9 Comments

Don’t you love this shot? You’re going to love this movie even more.

Even classic film lovers who aren’t film noir aficionados have heard of such classics as Double Indemnity, Laura, and Out of the Past, am I right?

But what of those low-budget Bs that no one ever talks about? The ones that rarely show up on the Late, Late Show? Don’t they deserve their moment in the sun?

I’ll say they do! And among these is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures: Wicked Woman (1953), directed by Russell Rouse and starring none other than Rouse’s wife, Beverly Michaels. It’s one heck of a flick that you’ve got to see to believe!

As the credits roll, we see the wicked woman of the film’s title, riding a bus through dusty towns, on her way to who-knows-where. And just in case we weren’t sure who this film was about, we’re treated to a jazzy theme song all about her as the credits roll, soulfully belted by Herb Jeffries (who, incidentally, was billed during his career as “Hollywood’s First Black Singing Cowboy” and the “Bronze Buckaroo”). (Just thought you’d like to know.) The words of the song tell us all we need to know about this dastardly dame: “You know that what she’s doin’ is sure to cause you ruin – and still, you listen to her lies.”

Everything’s better with Percy. Everything.

We learn that the dame’s name is Billie Nash (Michaels), and when she disembarks from the bus, she finds a rooming house and gives the landlady her last dollar, including a “good luck” coin – “All the luck that’s brought me shouldn’t happen to a dog,” she emotionlessly remarks. There’s something fascinating about Billie – from her uncommon name, to her blonde hair and all-white outfit, which puts you in mind of a poor man’s (I mean a REALLY poor man’s) Cora Smith in The Postman Always Rings Twice. There’s the syncopated rhythm record that she plays over and over (and over!) on her portable phonograph. The nearly empty pint of gin that she drains once she’s settled in her room. The astrology magazine that she reads to pass the time. She’s not beautiful, but she’s attractive in a brassy, I’ll-kick-your-ass kind of way. And she doesn’t just walk – she moves with a slow-motion strut that makes you wonder if she really wants to get where she’s going.

We don’t know anything about Billie when we meet her, except that she’s flat broke and looking for a job. And also that she’s resourceful – not long after noting the frank appraisal given to her legs by her across-the-hall neighbor, Charlie Borg (the always great Percy Helton), she turns on the charm and winds up dining on the chop he’d been cooking for his own dinner. And then, after landing a gig as a waitress in a bar, she gets Charlie to loan her 20 bucks for a new outfit by suggesting they celebrate her new job by going out for dinner and dancing on her first night off (“I’ll teach you all the latest steps,” she promises with a dazzling smile).

Richard Egan. Hubba hubba.

The bar is owned by Matt Bannister (a hunky Richard Egan) and his wife Dora (Evelyn Scott), who’s just a little too fond of the product they’re selling, if you know what I mean. Before long, Billie is casting meaningful glances in Matt’s direction, taking suggestive puffs from his cigarette, and letting her hand rest in his just a couple of beats longer than necessary when passing money from the customers. And before you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” she’s ensnared Matt like a fly in a spider web, drawing him in with her fantasy of going to Mexico: “I want to dance and make love and be serenaded,” she purrs. “And lay out in the sun all day. And get tan. Not too tan, though. They like blondes with fair skin down there.” After lulling him into a stupor with her imagery, she only has to say three more words – ‘’Mexico City. Acapulco…” – and Matt’s a goner. Meanwhile, she keeps poor Charlie panting on the sidelines, getting favors out of him by continuing to dangle the promise of their future night on the town.

Billie and Matt enjoy a brief interlude of stolen kisses and whispered endearments, but Billie’s soft and sultry side falls away like scales off a lizard when she insists that Matt sell the bar and run away with her south of the border. Matt’s appalled at the notion of leaving his wife in a lurch, and when he turns her down flat, Billie shows her true colors: “You can look for a new girl at the end of the week – I’m quittin’,” she tells Matt. “You stay in this hole you dug for yourself, but don’t expect me to hang around ‘til it’s six feet deep!” And Matt’s not the only one to suffer Billie’s wrath. Charlie encounters her upon her return to the rooming house and makes the mistake of trying yet again to get her to set a date for their outing. Instead, he gets pummeled with Billie’s screaming insults: “Do you think I’d go out with an undersized runt like you? Don’t make me laugh – I wouldn’t be caught dead with you!”

She looks kinda sweet here, doesn’t she? Kinda innocent? Well, she AIN’T.

But if you know anything about film noir, you’ll know that this isn’t the end. I don’t want to completely spoil the film – you’ve really got to see it to believe it – but let me just say this: the last 20 minutes of Wicked Woman will leave you bug-eyed and on the edge of your seat.

By the way, in addition to directing the film, Russell Rouse co-wrote the feature, along with Clarence Greene. This duo also penned the screenplay for D.O.A. (1949) and, in a complete about-face, they were responsible for the story for Pillow Talk (1959), the first teaming of Doris Day and Rock Hudson. In addition, Rouse was the man behind the camera for another of my favorite noirs, New York Confidential (1955).

If you’ve never seen Wicked Woman, do yourself a huge favor and check it out – you can catch it on You Tube. And if you’ve already had the pleasure of seeing it, there’s no time like the present to see it again!

You won’t be sorry.

——————-

This post first appeared in my Noir Nook column for Classic Movie Hub. Do yourself a favor and check out this awesome site!!

 

 

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The 2017 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival: Revisiting Adventures in Paradise: Part VIII

•March 22, 2018 • 2 Comments

Dick Cavett during his interview — er, conversation — with Illeana Douglas.

In a little over a month from now, I’ll be making my way to Hollywood to attend my sixth Turner Classic Movies Film Festival! So, while I wait for more films to be announced, and try to figure out the perfect wardrobe for wall-to-wall movie-watching and whatnot, I thought I’d take this opportunity to offer up another installment in my year-round look at last year’s fest. This month’s post takes a look at one of my (many) favorite events during the festival, an interview with the legendary Dick Cavett.

When I think back, I don’t recall ever watching an entire episode of any of the iterations of The Dick Cavett Show, but it seems like I’ve known all my life who he was. When I learned that he was going to appear at the festival, there was no question in my mind that I would juggle my schedule, eliminate screenings, go without meals, or do whatever else I had to do in order to see him in person. And let me say that I wasn’t disappointed.

In his introduction by actress Illeana Douglas (Melvyn Douglas’s granddaughter, dontcha know), I learned that the Lincoln, Nebraska native was nominated for 11 Emmys during his decades-long career, and is the author of four books, one of which he’d be signing at the end of his interview. “His interviews are a treasure trove,” Douglas said.

“Everything in my life came from that,” Cavett said of the big break he got from Jack Paar.

Cavett began his career as an actor (“They needed a kid who could do an English accent in Lincoln, Nebraska,” he joked), and soon after his graduation from Yale, he moved to New York to see acting work. To make ends meet, he worked several jobs, including copy boy for Time magazine, but his career swerved into a different direction when, on a whim, he wrote out a monologue for Jack Paar, then-host of The Tonight Show. He took the unsolicited manuscript to Paar (“Jack claims I cornered him in the men’s room,” Cavett recalled), who used a few lines from the monologue and promptly gave Cavett a job as a writer. Several years later, when Cavett got his own show, he said that Paar called him.

“He said, ‘Kid, when you do the show, don’t do interviews,’” Cavett recalled. “’Make it a conversation.’”

Cavett was a big fan of Groucho’s.

Among Cavett’s seemingly countless conversations was with Groucho Marx. Cavett spoke fondly of his long-time friendship with the comedian, whom he met at the funeral of George S. Kaufman.

“When I went in [to the funeral], I looked at this crowd and I think I saw every face every caricaturized by Hirschfeld,” Cavett said, referencing the famed artist whose drawings lined the walls at the Brown Derby restaurant. “And there in front of me was Groucho Marx. I froze. Because years earlier, out here, when I was about 10, at the chicken leg stand at the Farmer’s Market, the lady told me, ‘Hey kid, you should been here five minutes earlier – Groucho Marx was just here.’ I suspected there was no God at that age.”

Cavett said he followed Marx when he left the funeral.

“I went up to him and I said one of my most inspired lines: ‘Hi, Groucho – I’m a big fan.’” That was the start of their friendship.

Ali said Cavett was his “main man.”

Cavett was also friends with Stan Laurel. While working at Time, Cavett discovered Laurel’s Santa Monica address in the phone book. Cavett wrote him a letter and Laurel wrote him back, inviting Cavett for a visit. When Laurel came to the door, he said, “’Well, lad, it certainly is nice to meet you,’” Cavett recalled, describing the silent film comedian as “intelligent and cultured.” Laurel and Cavett talked for about three hours, Cavett said but, regrettably, Laurel wouldn’t come on his show because he “didn’t want the kids to see what I look like now.”

Another story involved boxing great Muhammad Ali. “There was a time when I felt Muhammad Ali was my best friend in all the world,” Cavett said, adding that the boxer appeared on his show 15 times. “The moment that got to me the most was after Ken Norton broke his jaw. He came on the show and he was very sullen. He told me that nobody else asked him to come on their show. He said, ‘I’m just an old washed-up fighter. I just want to say to you, you’re my main man.’”

Dick and me.

Cavett wrapped up his hour-long conversation with an hilarious story about Jack Benny, who he termed “the most admired man in show business” and “the cleanest act in vaudeville.” One night, after Benny had made an appearance on The Tonight Show, Cavett was riding in the elevator with him when a group of tourists got on. They began peppering Benny with a series of questions – “Are you really cheap?” and “Do you really play the violin?” and the like. Finally, after several floors, the tourists exited and Cavett turned to Benny.

“I asked him if that kind of behavior ever got to him, and he said, ‘You know kid,’” Cavett said, with a more than passable Benny imitation. “’Sometimes you just want to tell them to go fuck themselves.”

(I really wanted to end this post with that memorable quote, but I just had to say that I got the chance to meet Dick Cavett during his book signing, and it was truly a thrill. I told him he was my “main man,” ala Ali, and he gave me a soul-brother handshake. Now THAT’S a cool guy.)

Stay tuned . . . next month I’ll be serving up a preview of April’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival 2018!!

Pre-Code Crazy: The Eagle and the Hawk (1933)

•March 11, 2018 • 8 Comments

If you tune in to The Eagle and the Hawk (1933) on March 25th because you’re a huge Carole Lombard fan, let me give you a tip. Lombard is in the film, but her role is small; she’s on screen less than 10 minutes, tops.  But if you want to see a riveting pre-Code starring two first-rate actors near the starts of their respective successful careers, you won’t be sorry.

The film’s three stars – Fredric March, Cary Grant and Jack Oakie – are introduced in the opening credits in a sequence that reminded me of The Women (1939), in a manner that gives you a clue to the character’s persona. We see March’s Jerry Young looking refined and upper-crusty during a polo match; Grant, as Henry Crocker, grimly overseeing a field of workmen (and inexplicably gifting one of them with a right hook to the jaw); and Oakie’s character, Mike Richards, gleefully stuffing his face with a hearty sandwich, just before playing one of those penny fortune machines, which spits out the ominous message: “You will soon be facing great danger.”

These two weren’t exactly BFFs.

The film is set during World War I and Jerry, Henry and Mike are members of the Royal Air Force. We soon learn that while Jerry is a top-notch pilot, Henry’s not quite so talented in that area. In fact, when the men in their squadron receive orders to head for France, Henry’s left off the list – at Jerry’s behest. “You’re the best gunner in the bunch,” Jerry tells him. “But you’re gonna kill yourself if you keep trying to fly.” Jerry’s honesty earns him a knock-down punch from the embittered, hot-headed Henry.

Once in France, Jerry is immediately dispatched to the air, charged with flying through rival territory while his observer-cum-gunner, seated in the rear cockpit, takes aerial photographs and engages in gun battles with enemy aircraft. Back on land after making it through his first flight, Henry’s jubilance is quickly dampened when he realizes that his gunner was killed during the mission.

Jack Oakie was on hand to provide some much-needed comic relief.

In the next two months, Jerry loses four more gunners during his missions, and grows increasingly disturbed by his experiences, telling a superior: “I didn’t expect to be a chauffeur for a graveyard – driving men to their death day after day!” It only makes matters worse when Jerry receives a medal for his valor, and is presented as a shining example to future flyers. “We’re telling them, ‘Be like Young,’” Jerry’s commander proclaims.

Later, Jerry learns that his most recently departed gunner is being replaced by his old compatriot, Henry Crocker, who arrives on the base with a spiteful disposition and a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. We learn that Henry knows all about the fate of Jerry’s previous five gunners, and that he’d volunteered to ride with Jerry. “I heard about you and your medal. I wanted to see how you did it. And how long you could keep on doing it,” Henry says nastily. “I was just wondering how long you’d go on before your nerves would go to pieces.”

Jerry and “The Beautiful Woman.”

As Henry predicted, Jerry becomes further unhinged, drinking more and more with every death he witnesses and suffering nightmares that leave him screaming out in his sleep. Meanwhile, Henry begins to develop a grudging respect and appreciation for his partner, even cooking up a savvy scheme to earn Jerry a 10-day leave. It’s on that leave that Jerry meets a glamorous but sensitive and understanding woman who observes his growing unease at a party where he’s constantly reminded of the horrors he left behind. She winds up sharing a bottle of champagne with him in the park, encouraging him to reveal the thoughts and feelings that he’s kept bottled inside throughout the war. “I thought it was like a game – polo, or something like that. And then the first time I went up, I brought down a plane and that started it,” he tells the woman (who is credited only as “The Beautiful Lady.”) “Somebody slapped me on the back and told me I was great and I had to go on. More planes. More dead men. More medals. There isn’t any end.”

Speaking of the end, I’m not going to share any more – you’ll need to see for yourself what happens with The Eagle and the Hawk. But I will say this: this movie is harrowing, moving, sad and unforgettable, with amazing performances from both Fredric March and Cary Grant. It’s sometimes hard to watch, and it’s definitely hard to stop thinking about after the credits roll, but it’s a truly excellent film.

Don’t miss it. March 25th on TCM. You only owe it to yourself.

——–

And don’t forget to pop over to Speakeasy to see what pre-Code gem Kristina is recommending for the month!

The 2017 TCM Film Festival: Revisiting Adventures in Paradise — Part VII

•February 25, 2018 • 8 Comments

Gene Tierney was an outstanding Laura — but she wasn’t the first choice.

As the rapidly passing days on the calendar would indicate (can you believe it’s nearly March already?!??), it’s almost time for this year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival – and time for another installment in my monthly look at the 2017 event! This time I’m covering the screening of the nitrate version of the film noir classic, Laura (1944).

I confess that before the festival’s films were announced, I’d never heard of nitrate, and had no idea what all the hubbub was about. In fact, I originally didn’t even plan to attend the screening – Laura was presented at the same time as one of my favorite pre-Code comedies, Twentieth Century (1934), and I’d almost decided to definitely spend my evening with Lombard and Barrymore when all the nitrate buzz turned my head and changed my schedule.

Cellulose nitrate was first used as a base for photographic roll film by George Eastman in 1889 and was the dominant motion picture medium from 1895 to 1948. It was renowned for the beauty and clarity of its images, but it was found to gradually decompose and it was highly flammable. The vast majority of films produced in the early 1900s are thought to have been lost because of decomposition or through studio warehouse fires. In 1948, Eastman Kodak launched cellulose triacetate as a safe film replacement for nitrate film, and by 1951, production of nitrate 35 mm motion picture film had ceased.

The portrait of Laura was actually a painted photograph.

At the film festival, Laura was introduced by Randy Haberkamp, Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Programs for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He shared with the packed crowd in the Egyptian Theater several “fun things” about Laura, including that it was written first as a play, then as a novel, then a play again, and then a movie, all in the span of about five years. Also, the title role portrayed by Gene Tierney was originally to be played by Jennifer Jones. Hedy Lamarr and Rosalind Russell were also considered for the part. The famed painting of Laura was actually a photograph that had been painted over. And Vincent Price – who played loafer Shelby Carpenter – was supposed to do a musical number!

“I think it’s so great that we are here in Sid Grauman’s Egyptian Theater – he was referred to as a showman,” Haberkamp said. “Nitrate had a very special image. It’s flammable, so it was a dangerous thing, but it was also a beautiful thing. Nitrate is something that is of the past, but we are going to hold on to it in this festival.”

Nitrate: it sparkles!

According to Haberkamp, the term “silver screen” came from the look of nitrate film. “It sparkles – it has illuminosity,” he said. “It’s like going to hear somebody sing live instead of listening to a really well engineered recording. You’re seeing the filmmakers’ original vision.”

Two of my fellow bloggers – Lara and Diana– both offered up their first-hand experiences with viewing the nitrate copy of Laura at the TCM film festivals. Enjoy their thoughts on their blogs, Backlots and Flickin’ It.

And stay tuned for the next installment of Revisiting Adventures in Paradise!

List o’ the Week: My Favorite Pre-Code Actresses

•February 18, 2018 • 22 Comments

Can’t get enough of Norma Shearer and The Divorcee.

Today’s List o’ the Week is an easy one – my Top 20 favorite pre-Code actresses.

Because I couldn’t possibly rank them in order of how much I love them (Stanwyck vs. Crawford vs. Blondell vs. Shearer!?!? Come ON!), I put them in alphabetical order. And to spice things up a bit, I listed my favorite pre-Code film in which each appeared (which was no cakewalk, let me tell you!)

Here goes:

1.  Constance Bennett: The Easiest Way (1931)

2.  Joan Blondell: Blondie Johnson (1933)

3.  Nancy Carroll: Hot Saturday (1932)

4.  Ruth Chatterton: Lilly Turner (1933)

5.  Mae Clarke: Waterloo Bridge (1931)

6.  Joan Crawford: Possessed (1931)

7.  Ann Dvorak: Three on a Match (1932)

8.  Kay Francis: Mandalay (1934)

9.  Ann Harding: Double Harness (1933)

10. Jean Harlow: Bombshell (1933)

11. Miriam Hopkins: Design for Living (1933)

12. Leila Hyams: Men Call It Love (1931)

13. Carole Lombard: Twentieth Century (1934)

14. Anita Page: Under Eigheen (1931)

15. Dorothy Mackaill: The Reckless Hour (1931)

16. Ginger Rogers: Upperworld (1934)

17. Norma Shearer: The Divorcee (1931)

18. Barbara Stanwyck: Night Nurse (1931)

19. Helen Twelvetrees: Millie (1931)

20. Loretta Young: Born to Be Bad (1934)

Who are your favorite pre-Code actresses and films?

The 2017 TCM Film Festival: Revisiting Adventures in Paradise — Part VI

•January 24, 2018 • 4 Comments

The anticipation builds . . .

It’s about that time – time for another installment in my monthly look at the 2017 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival! And this month I’m taking a look at one of my favorite experiences of the festival – the Hand and Footprint Ceremony featuring Carl Reiner and his son, Rob.

(Before I dive into my reporting of the actual event, let me just say that in order to be allowed to cover it as a member of the media, I had to submit a special request – which was turned down. BUT, an angel appeared in the form of my fellow blogger and pal, Aurora of Once Upon a Screen, who allowed me to attend in her stead. I’ll be forever grateful. Forever.)

The ceremony involves the placing of the honorees’ hands and feet in cement, to be installed in the forecourt at what I will always know as Grauman’s Chinese Theater. This year’s event was impressively peppered with a number of celebrities who were on hand as special guests – Kevin Nealon, Cary Elwes (who’s still as gorgeous as he was as Wesley in The Princess Bride), Norman Lear, and Barbara Bain (who literally walked right in front of me. I mean, I could have pulled her ponytail as she passed by – that’s how close she was. Not that I would have done that. Of course.) And that’s not all! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Billy Crystal was a delight, as usual.

TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz opened the ceremony, telling the gathered audience of media and lucky passholders that “few fathers and sons are as accomplished as Carl and Rob Reiner, and none are as funny. Carl’s version of slowing down is writing just one book a year.”

Also at the event were Carl Reiner’s longtime friend Tom Bergeron, who called his pal “humor’s greatest blessing,” and Rob Reiner’s BFF Billy Crystal. Crystal recalled that when he was a new comedian in 1975, he had a gig at L.A.’s Comedy Store and Carl Reiner and Norman Lear were in the audience. After Crystal’s set, Carl introduced himself and two weeks later, Norman Lear offered him a part in an All in the Family episode, playing the best friend of Rob Reiner’s character.

“In the rehearsal, I was watching Rob and the seeds of what would become a great director,” said Crystal, who would later be directed by Rob Reiner in The Princess Bride and When Harry Met Sally. “He always has the perfect answer as a director: ‘Let’s try it.’”

The Reiners’ mutual regard was heartwarming and smile-inducing.

Crystal had the honor of introducing Carl and Rob Reiner, whose obvious love and high regard for each other was beyond heartwarming – it makes me smile, even now, to remember their mutual displays of affection. “I’ve known this guy almost all of his life,” Carl Reiner jokingly said of his son, adding that he has three favorite films that he likes to share with others:  The Count of Monte Cristo, Random Harvest, and The Princess Bride. “And this has nothing to do with the fact that Rob is my son,” Carl said. “Any time you feel low, put on The Princess Bride and you’ll go away smiling.”

Hope to be back for the 2018 ceremony!

“I think we should not only put our hands and feet in the cement,” Rob Reiner jested. “We should also put our bald heads.” On a more serious note, Rob went on to share why the ceremony meant so much to him: “We are the first father and son to do this together at the same time, and also, my father was my idol. He stood for everything I wanted to be in life.”

I hope to be able to cover many hand and footprint ceremonies at TCM film fests in the coming years, but this one will always hold a very special place in my heart. It was truly a highlight of the festival for me.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Revisiting Adventures in Paradise! And in the meantime, enjoy a few more of my pictures from this memorable event!

Barbara Bain. (She walked right in front of me!)

Tom Bergeron is a close friend of Carl Reiner’s. (And I’ve been a Bergeron fan since Fox After Breakfast!)

Norman Lear is the coolest.

Rob Reiner planting his feet in the cement.

And Kevin Nealon was on hand!

Cary Elwes. Still a heartstopper.

 

Pre-Code Crazy: Millie (1931)

•January 15, 2018 • 7 Comments

I don’t remember the first time I heard the name “Helen Twelvetrees,” but for many years she was, for me, just an unfamiliar actress from the 1930s with an interesting name – like Gwili Andre or Jobyna Ralston. I never really thought about seeing her in a film, or even trying to.

And then came Millie.

I’m not even sure how I came across this movie, but I fell in love with Helen Twelvetrees the first time I saw it, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Millie opens on the campus of Willows University, and only a couple of seconds pass before we know that the title character is one hot mama. We discover this because a group of college lads are in a local diner when a car approaches, and when one fella speculates that Millie’s in the car, the six of them practically perform a circus act just to wave as she passes. (“Boy, what a qualifier she is,” one boy exclaims, “and just rarin’ to go!”)

Millie wasn’t exactly batting a thousand when it came to picking men.

When we meet her for ourselves, we quickly discover that although Millie is a free spirited, fun-loving girl (“I want excitement! I want to live to go everywhere and see everything and do everything!”), she’s still an old-fashioned girl at heart – when her date, Jack Maitland (James Hall), suggests that she accompany him to New York, she doesn’t give it a moment’s consideration until she realizes that Jack is proposing marriage. And she’s not the worldly wise dame she’d like others to think she is. After their ceremony at the Justice of the Peace, she and her new hubby check in at a roadside hotel and poor Millie looks like she may pass out any second – especially when she catches a glimpse of the bed. She’s really just a sweet, young girl on the inside, who insists on calling her mother to tell her the news, and then can’t stop crying.

Fast forward three years, and Millie’s a wealthy but unhappy wife and mother to a small daughter whose governess whisks her away after allowing Millie just a few minutes with her each day. Her husband is remote and constantly leaving town “for business,” and Millie has transformed into a whiny, pitiful creature, begging her husband for more passionate kisses and constantly referencing the way their lives used to be.  (Of course, it doesn’t help that her husband is a rather officious ass whose appeal I was unable to discern even when she first married him. But I digress.)

This look says “What the hell?!?”

Millie gets a reprieve from her listless existence when she gets a call from Angie Wickerstaff (the always wonderful Joan Blondell), a hometown chum, who invites Millie out for cocktails with her and another girlfriend, Helen Riley (Lilyan Tashman). Unfortunately, the outing turns out to be more than Millie bargained for when she spots her husband there, billing and cooing with another woman. You won’t be surprised to see that Millie is devastated by the discovery – but I’ll bet you won’t be expecting to see her confront her husband’s side chick and clock her on the jaw!

All of this happens in the first 20 minutes of this hour-and-a-half long film, and believe me when I tell you that there’s a whole lot more drama, pathos, and are-you-kidding-me moments ahead. But I’m going to let you discover them for yourself – tune in to TCM on January 22nd.

And in the meantime, here’s some trivial tidbits to tide you over:

Blondell and Tashman. A winning combination.

  • Joan Blondell and Lilyan Tashman steal pretty much every scene they’re in. Many reviews of this film assert with confidence that their characters are lesbians, but I just don’t see it. Just because they live together and, in their first scene, are in the same bed – I mean, really? But whatever. I just thought I’d point that out. And while I’m pointing things out, if you know me at all, you might know that I’m a ginormous Lilyan Tashman fan. If you’d like to read more about her life on and off the screen, click here.
  • Four of the film’s stars Twelvetrees, Tashman, James Hall, and Robert Ames – and the director, John Francis Dillon, all died before the age of 50. Isn’t that weird?
  • Speaking of the director, Dillon directed Clara Bow in the unforgettable Call Her Savage (1932). If you’ve never seen this one, do your best to track it down. It has to be seen to be believed. He also directed The Reckless Hour, starring Dorothy Mackaill, which was the first film I selected for the Pre-Code Crazy series when Kristina and I started it more than three years ago. (Three years ago!?!? That’s crazy. Pre-Code crazy, if you will.)

    And don’t forget about Female!

  • The film was based on a novel written in 1931 by Donald Henderson Clarke. Clarke also wrote Female, which was made into a film starring Ruth Chatterton in 1933. According to numerous sources I found on the Internet, the novel Female was declared obscene by the New York Supreme Court, a decision that was upheld on appeal. What I couldn’t find was exactly what that meant. It certainly didn’t stop the movie from being made, so. . .

Be sure to tune in to Millie on TCM January 22nd you won’t be sorry!  and don’t forget to pop over to Speakeasy to find out what gem Kristina is recommending for the month!