Old Sparkie

Joan Blondell goes to the chair — fer poimanent!

Sorry, that shouled have read “Joan Blondell sits in a chair for a permanent.”

Ina Claire, left, costumed by Coco Chanel.

Film: THREE BROADWAY GIRLS, AKA THE GREEKS HAVE A WORD FOR THEM. Apparently Goldwyn insisted on changing the play’s title from The Greeks Have a Word for It, further proof of his lack of taste and sense in my opinion. And then i guess the film didn’t do so well so they went for a blander title.

Smashing pre-code Goldwyn! The original of HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, great performances by Claire and Blondell, decent support from Madge Evans, that oddly appealing drip David Manners, and suaveness machine Lowell Sherman, who also directed. Lots of spicy and amoral content, including Ina discarding her garb for an unparalleled fur-coat-and-no-knickers scene. Some combination of the Goldwyn quest for “quality” (that drab chimera), the theatrical origins, the limitations of ’30s technique, and Sherman’s direction, makes the film just a little stiffer than the very best pre-codes, but it benefits from the ability of the characters to constantly surprise us by stepping outside the norms of behaviour later enforced by censorship. Like so ~

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21 Responses to “Old Sparkie”

  1. IOW the otiginal Sex in the City.

    Oh how we need Ina Claire and Joan Blondell today!

  2. “That oddly appealing drip David Manners” – perfect.

    Oh how I want to see this! Is it on Region 2?

  3. You can download it for free at the Internet Archive (www.archive.org).

  4. The only way to see it seems to be illegally.

    It seems a lot smarter and more challenging than Sex and the City, perhaps because the female characters are aspirant but not yet rich, and the film is marginally interested in the ethical issues involved in getting rich. But there’s absolutely a parallel.

  5. david wingrove Says:

    Plus the fact that Joan Blondell, at least, is a genuine movie star – which none of the SEX AND THE CITY gals have ever managed to be!

  6. Ina is even stronger in this — quite an impressive actress and comic!

  7. Aw, but at least Cynthia Nixon was a successful Broadway babe, like Ina Claire. I credit Joan for a bit of business that William Wellman stole from her in both Lilly Turner and Roxie Hart – the female stars in those films chew gum constantly, a trademark of early Blondell (she even does it in the first scene of Sinner’s Holiday). I think it’s used as a sign of being working class.

    David,
    Illegal? I thought they vetted contributions to the IA pretty carefully. If they claim it’s PD, I’d think they’re had some grounds to do so. Of course, things go into and out of PD rather often and to have a Goldwyn film be PD is really unusual.

  8. You’re right, it’s probably legal. Just sort of unofficial.

    I like Cynthia Nixon in Tanner 88. I potentially like all the leads in Sex and the City, I just can’t stand the show. Glenn Kenny called the spin-off movie “a recruitment film for the Taleban.”

  9. This fellow admirer of that oddly appealing drip notes with approval the airing on TCM late last night of Crooner (1932), a musical comedy starring Mr. David Manners. Here’s hoping my recorder did its job!

  10. Sounds great! I do not recall having heard Manners give song, but I cannot accept that the experience could be less than transfiguring.

  11. David Boxwell Says:

    Manners is dubbed by some generic capon in CROONER, but he totally queens out in the movie as success goes to his head and he throws shade all over the place in some very luscious silk robes.
    He is adorable!

  12. That sounds all kinds of fun.

  13. Christopher Says:

    Death Kiss is one of my favorite David Manners films,shows what he could do if you gave him a chance..

  14. Maybe I’m being unfair because it was on so early (I didn’t think it was one of the better morning movies), Crooner is sort of fun but has a lot of dull bits. I like how he gets his big break – a drunk hands him a megaphone because he’s got such a weak voice. I mentioned to David that it’s really cynical about publicity and fame, as was It’s Tough To Be Famous, a film that played a couple of hours later. Warner/First National did a number of movies in that vein, like Blessed Event, High Pressure, and Hard To Handle.

    There was another Manners film where I found him to be pretty good, but I can’t remember for sure what film it was, maybe Torch Singer. He wasn’t half bad as the wormy romancer in They Call It Sin, either, but I still remember seeing him in Man Wanted – Kay Francis looked like (as Ray Liotta said to Jeff Daniels in Something Wild) she could fuck him right in half.

  15. “I could carve a better man out of a banana!” as Kurt Vonnegut’s more forceful characters are always saying. Maybe it’s his air of inadequacy that makes him so refreshing. He makes a huge contribution to the strangeness of The Last Flight.

    Have never seen Death Kiss, will investigate!

  16. david wingrove Says:

    A great many heterosexual men find SEX AND THE CITY threatening. (One straight friend of ours kept his legs crossed – quite unconsciously – throughout an entire episode.) Is it because the show revolves around women discussing men as sex objects – and evaluating them as such? That’s something gay men have been doing forever, so it doesn’t seem to bother ‘our kind’ in the slightest.

    As for the film (which I haven’t seen) being a “recruiting poster for the Taliban”? Well, the show does take female autonomy – both sexual and economic – to extremes that cultural conservatives of any stripe would definitely frown on! However, it’s ultimately as old-fashioned as a Doris Day comedy or a Jane Austen novel. It’s all about single girls looking for love. I think we can all empathise with that.

  17. Yes, what is it that puts me off so violently? I think it’s the unbridled capitalism rather than the free-and-easy sexuality. Why didn’t that bother me with The Greeks Have a Word for It? Perhaps a combination of historical distance, so it doesn’t alarm me, and a sense that there’s a sliver of social critique somewhere in the background. Maybe that’s the case in S&tC too, but I never felt it.

    Oh, and I never found the show funny — but is that because I was threatened or because I just didn’t think it was well written? A hard line to draw.

  18. SEX AND THE CITY might be an interesting show if its characters’ views (esp as defined above) were contextualized, either in the script or (more challenging) in the direction. The latter being what makes Cukor Cukor, and not Michael Patrick King. (And S&TC is forever shadowed by THE WOMEN.) Pleasure and empathy are what they are and that’s fine, but works of art usually place those impulses in some kind of context.

    Or maybe I tend to resist shows/films that consistently congratulate their characters & viewers alike for thinking the right thoughts, feeling the right feelings.

  19. Yeah, I think it’s a certain lack of reflection that bothers me. In the characters and in the series as a whole.

  20. Lack of reflection, and the celebration of conspicuous consumption (I admit, I never watched more than a handful of episodes). I detested a lot of ’80s films for the same reason.

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