Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Blondes: Platinum or Strawberry ? Both !


PLATINUM BLONDE, this is an early talkie - 1931 - someone on IMDB said it was maybe the first romcom? The platinum blonde is Jean Harlow who is playing a rich dame, and she seems rather subdued from her usual brassy roles (as in DINNER AT EIGHT or RED DUST) and the other two leads are the marvellous young Loretta Young (whom I like a lot in her '30s films like MIDNIGHT MARY, LADIES IN LOVE etc, as per label) and the male lead is one Robert Williams, whom I had never heard of. Understandable, as he died (of peritonitis) that year, 1931, aged 34. This was in fact his last (of 6 films) and he is a rivetting presence here, and surely would have been a bigger star. It is an early Frank Capra picture too and its a real treat now. Its a must-see for several reasons. Jean Harlow is unusually cast as a straight society high-brow. Although the role could easily be played as a caricature, she brings to it appealing depth and vulnerability. 
Loretta Young is radiant. And Robert Williams delivers an eccentric modern day performance.

Williams is Stew Smith, a reporter who falls suddenly in love with rich socialite (Harlow) but soon gets bored with the rich life and wants to be back being a reporter again with Gallagher (that's Loretta) who really loves him all along and of course they end up happily together. Its a nice  snappy depression-era satire on the rich idle folk too. (Harlow of course died in 1937, aged 26 - while Loretta continued to 2000, aged 87.)

THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (or LA BLONDE FRAMBOISE as the French DVD has it) was a pleasant memory from seeing it on television once, nice to finally get it on dvd, its one I will be returning to, more than once. Its an utterly charming comedy from 1941, by Raoul Walsh (script by Julius  J Epstein) with delightful turns from James Cagney, Olivia De Havilland, Rita Hayworth and Jack Carson, and it captures that 'gay nineties' perfectly. 

Biff Grimes is pugnacious but likable young man during the Gay 90's living with his ne'er-do-well father, noted for their scrappy personalities and quick tempers. Like every other young man in town, Biff has a crush on gorgeous and flirtatious 'strawberry blonde' Virginia Brush, who gets catcalls every time she walks past the all-male clientèle of the neighborhood barber shop. Biff is joined in his admiration by his friends, Nick Pappalis, an immigrant Greek barber, and Hugo Barnsfeld, an unscrupulously ambitious young man who doesn't let anything stand in the way of what he wants, including Virginia. Utilizing both fair means and foul Hugo sweeps Vrginia off her feet and frames Biff as the fall guy in a political graft schemee. However, every dog has his day, and eight years later Biff stands poised to take his revenge.

Cagney, in a change of pace, is the young dentist, always outwitted by pushy Carson, both fall for Virigina, the local beauty (Hayworth), but Carson wins her and they are both dis-satisfield. Olivia has a field day as the feisty feminist Amy and she and Cagney are the perfect pair, as Jimmy gets his revenge on bully boy Carson, who has a sore tooth. Alan Hale and Una O'Connor are dependable support. 
The BFI are showing it as part of their Olivia De Havilland retrospective in July, to celebrate her 100th birthday (I saw her there in person in 1972, as per label) and they say: "De Havilland shines as the free-thinking modern gal who falls for Cagney's brawling dreamer. He still yearns after Rita's flirtacious 'strawberry blonde' but its Olivia's Amy who will steal your heart in this romance that packs in comedy and drama.' The perfect 1940s Warner Bros package then. 

2 comments:

  1. I've no memory of seeing PLATINUM BLONDE but THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE is a personal favourite and I must look out for it on dvd, perhaps when I am back in Spain. It's a deeply charming film.

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