Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blonde on Blondell

One of the unfortunate facts of the Film Forum’s retrospectives is that films often only play for a single day. This means you have to camp out there, perhaps on a hammock between the columns in the lobby, to get the full effect. Not yet one of the cranky pensioners who do camp out there, I only made it to about a dozen of the Breadlines & Champagne series that ends tomorrow. One of the highlights was seeing the young James Cagney, one of the great hoofers, let loose with some dance steps in most everything he was in, but especially in the finale of Footlight Parade. In the same movie, kewpie-faced pre-Code* stalwart Joan Blondell plays Cagney’s loyal secretary, pining for him while he chases all the wrong dames. She does the same thing in Lawyer Man, where her boss is William Powell. Cracking wise, she is however no pushover. In Blonde Crazy, she even gets to slap Cagney about a half dozen times, and if there was ever a cocky bantamweight who needed a good slap it was Cagney. So here’s to Joan Blondell, and would you believe that seems to have been her real name?
*“Pre-Code” refers to films made before 1934, when Hollywood succumbed to the moralists for three decades. Publicity stills like the one above were out.


Dan Dan said...

is it my imagination or was ruby keeler not that great?

i always thought joan b. was so much more talented, the only thing with ruby i liked was she danced with james in 'shanghai lil!'

Matthew said...

Ruby Keeler never did much all that much for me. She could tap, but being the "girl ingenue" meant she was usually stuck in lamely sweet roles. (Not that I don't like sweetrolls.) She should have branched out into some noir like her sidekick Dick Powell.

Dan Dan said...

she should have, but i can't but imagine her as a 'bad broad' with a cheek to cheek grin!