First Blush

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The third in an informal trilogy (and really, everyone should make informal trilogies — they’re the best kind), following OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS and OUR MODERN MAIDENS, OUR BLUSHING BRIDES (1930) is the first full talkie in the sequence, and the earliest talkie I’d seen Joan Crawford in. (I’m now excited to see UNTAMED — as who wouldn’t be, with that title? — her very first speechifying role.)

Shaking up the familiar format of leggy girls and lush deco sets, the movie casts Joan and regular co-star/sacrificial lamb Anita Page as shopgirls, with Dorothy Sebastian completing the traditional trio. DS is really good in this, and it’s a shame she’s the one who slid into extra roles. The department store they work in (Crawford is a mannequin, her friends and flatmates sell perfumes and blankets respectively) is a relatively restrained, realist construction, so that we have to wait until the fashion show at the millionaire’s country retreat before we get any Cedric Gibbons elegance, but it’s worth the wait ~

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Uncredited director Harry Beaumont directs fluidly — there are some long “photographs of people talking” scenes, but also some propulsive tracking shots with overlapping crowd dialogue and a dynamic mix of synch and post-synch sound: an early lingerie pageant has a Greek chorus of female customers babbling over it, perhaps to fix the scene as a fashion show rather than a skin show in the censor’s mind. Whatever, it’s a pleasingly weird effect.

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Sociopolitically, we’re still in flux: the working girl stuff is quite Warner Bros, with sympathy for the gold-digging impulse (it’s what our current Glorious Leaders would call Social Mobility), but Joan is portrayed as the wisest of the three little pigs, the one who doesn’t trust men and won’t accept the advances of tiny-child-in-a-tux Robert Montgomery until he’s proved his intentions are honourable. Whereas Page and Sebastian both get royally taken by the predatory males they’re foolish enough to believe. This means we get to see Page’s shagging palace (above), a spectacular streamlined suite with leather-bound volumes just for show (“David says women shouldn’t ruin their minds with thinking,” gurgles Page), but the biggest treat is Montgomery’s tree-house —

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Yes. This is a tree-house. By Cedric Gibbons. What, no swimming pool?

You can buy the first two films in the series —

Our Dancing Daughters
Our Modern Maidens

2 Responses to “First Blush”

  1. Paul Cain Says:

    I felt true joy viewing your , uh, trying to find the proper SUPERLATIVE; AWESOME, aesthetically refined——yet democratic ,as in approachable to everyone, site!
    Please forgive my effusiveness; I love 💕 Joan Crawford, flaws included, and every period of her career, from Sally,Irene, and Mary to Pepsi Board!
    I also understand how much art-direction-Cedric Gibbons, and costume design—Gilbert Adrian – contributed to her success!

  2. Many thanks! I’ve just made a special feature for the forthcoming Blu-ray of Johnny Guitar, and tried to give Crawford die credit for that film’s unique qualities.

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