On the Pertness of Pert Kelton

Image via If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger

Over at The Chiseler, a piece of pre-code appreciation. Anybody who sees BED OF ROSES is pretty much guaranteed to think (1) “Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea sure are lovely to look at, and great onscreen, and great together,” and (2) “Who is THAT?” And the answer to (2) would be “That’s Pert Kelton, honey!”

The movie is probably her apotheosis, but she had a long career doing more or less exactly the same performance. Recently enjoyed her in SALLY, her debut, a mainly lumpen musical with impossibly-sugar-sweet Marilyn Miller — a few fragments of two-strip Technicolor still adhere in places — and BACHELOR BAIT, an early George Stevens comedy which makes good use of Stuart Erwin’s naive hick charm. Pert models a succession of eye-popping dresses: one like the image on a faulty television, another like a futuristic cake. From her first appearance, though, her ability to drip sarcasm from stratospheric heights of disdain was fully developed.

8 Responses to “On the Pertness of Pert Kelton”

  1. I recall her live on stage in the original cast of The Music Man.

    Off-topic: Sondheim Day Part I

  2. I like that in The Bowery, they gave her character the name Odbray, pig latin for “broad”. It sort of fit her, she was more “street” than her Warner cousins and she probably could have gotten way more roles if the character of “veteran hooker” was more common in film of the era. As it is, I’m surprised that “I’ve seen it all, I’ve done it all, and I ain’t impressed” persona didn’t get her more roles.

    On a tangent, it’s pretty hard to find many 1929-30 musicals that are, well, good. Sally is one of those that’s mostly a grind to watch.

  3. Yeah, I think the musical pretty much had to wait for Lubitsch and Berkeley and other geniuses to elevate it beyond leaden filming of stage numbers.

    I wanted to mention Odbray but I forgot, damnit. It’s a brilliant name.

  4. Christopher Says:

    the original Alice Kramden..before Audry Meadows in The Honeymooners

  5. How exciting, to have such a personage on weekly TV! How long did she last? (The Honeymooners barely registered on UK TV, alas. Although we got The Flintstones rammed down our throats.)

  6. John Seal Says:

    I have a picture of Pert Kelton on a wall in my office. She spends the whole day winking at me. She’s a saucy one.

  7. Christopher Says:

    she was only in the first sketches of the honeymooners on Cavalcade Of Stars,before the main series later in the 50s..I think she returned and did some of those random Honeymooners skits on the much later Jackie Gleason show..

  8. “How are you at walking on water?”
    “I don’t know, but I could do a lot of thinking on gin.”

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