30 January 2014 | mukava991
Good Old Thing
"Dance, Fools, Dance" is one of the better movies of 1931. Its topics (the spoiled and not-so- spoiled rich, the choices we make between the easy way and the hard way, alcoholism, the newspaper and bootlegging games) have ongoing resonance; it moves swiftly; Joan Crawford is beautiful and arresting even if she gets a little too arch with some of her line readings in the early scenes; the main supporting players are all distinct and effective representatives of their types; the dialogue is frequently snappy.
Bonnie Jordan, a passionate young socialite (Crawford), is introduced saying to her boyfriend during a dull midnight party on a yacht, "If something doesn't happen, l'll die!" whereupon the boyfriend suggests that all of the young hedonists strip and jump into the ocean for kicks. Since this was 1930, they only strip to their fancy underwear, but the point is made. These are flaming and privileged youth who just wanted to have fun. Unfortunately for Bonnie and her alcoholic brother Rodney (William Bakewell – whatever happened to him? He is terrific in this) their indulgent father drops dead after taking a beating on the stock market and they are left penniless (which in MGM terms translates into sharing a high-ceilinged two-bedroom apartment) and—to the horror of the son—have to get jobs. Bonnie, the more mature of the pair, uses a family social connection to land a spot as a cub reporter covering garden parties and the like for the city newspaper where she befriends a fellow newshound (Cliff Edwards at his peculiar best). Good newsroom shot: The camera pans from one typewriter to another revealing each reporter's story as it's being banged out. Meanwhile, Rodney, desperate to make easy money, agrees to drum up business for a hardened bootlegger (Clark Gable) by persuading his wealthy liquor-consuming former friends to switch to Gable's suppliers. This all leads to big trouble, eventually involving Bonnie, which in turns leads to Gable and Crawford in their first screen pairing.
And now for the highlight of the film: Gable and Crawford are now displayed front and center on a sofa in Gable's lair. The screen smolders as these two ferally attractive and impeccably decorated young stars go to it – rugged Gable in starched white shirt and black jacket; Crawford in her shimmering satin; he forcing kiss after kiss, first on each of her cheeks as she tries to turn her lips away from his, and then finally hitting the mark. Cinema magic. Another kind of intensity emanates from Natalie Moorhead, as Gable's erstwhile female companion, who gives him the eye as she blows out the flame of his cigarette lighter. Moorhead always made the most of her limited screen time (no more than a few minutes here).
Oh, and we get to see Crawford do one of those lead-footed dances she was forced to perform in early talkies. She has energy, spirit and determination to spare but very little grace.