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  • I disagree strongly with anyone who might dismiss this film as "just" entertainment. Set right after the carefree, roaring 20s, during the early days of the Great Depression, Dance, Fools, Dance is at its heart an earnest cautionary tale, with a clear message about how best to endure these hard times. Yet this fast-paced and tightly-plotted film is far from being a dreary morality tale.

    In the 30s, Hollywood had a knack for churning out one entertaining *and* enlightening audience-pleaser after another, all without wasting a frame of film. Dance, Fools, Dance -- one of *four* films that Harry Beaumont directed in 1931 -- is barely 80 minutes long, yet its characters are well developed, its story never seems rushed, and despite its many twists in plot, the audience is never left behind.

    With the lone exception of Lester Vail as flaccid love interest Bob Townsend, the supporting cast is uniformly strong. Worthy of note are William Bakewell as Crawford's brother, Cliff Edwards (best known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket) as reporter Bert Scranton, and Clark Gable in an early supporting role as gangster Jake Luva.

    But this is Joan Crawford's film, and she absolutely shines in it. Made when she was just 27, this lesser-known version of Crawford will probably be unrecognizable to those more familiar with her later work. However, here is proof that long before she took home an Oscar for Mildred Pierce, Crawford was a star in the true sense of the word, a terrific actress with the charisma to carry a picture all by herself.

    Score: EIGHT out of TEN
  • Don't listen to fuddy-duddy critics on this one, this is a gem! Young rich Joan and her brother find themselves penniless after their father dies - and now they have to work for a living! She, naturally, becomes a reporter, and he, just as naturally, a driver for the mob! By wild co-incidences their careers meet head on, thanks to gangster Clark Gable. In the meantime there is the chance for a moonlight underwear swim for a bunch of pretty young things and for Joan to do a couple of risque dance numbers (with all the grace of a steam-shovel).

    But none of this is supposed to be taken seriously - it's all good fun from those wonderful pre-code days, when Hollywood was really naughty. Joan looks great, and displays much of the emotional range that would give her career such longevity (thank God she stopped the dancing!). Gable is remarkable as a slimy gangster - he wasn't a star yet and so didn't have to be the hero. Great to see him playing something different. And William Bakewell is excellent as the poor confused brother. And there are some great montages and tracking shots courtesy of director Harry Beaumont, who moves the piece on with a cracking pace - and an occasional wink to the audience! Great fun!
  • The opening scenes of Dance, Fools, Dance paint a picture of spoiled rich kids Joan Crawford and her brother William Bakewell. Neither has apparently completed school or ever done anything worthwhile. Their father—who worked his own way up to wealth from the bottom—is worried. Joan smokes before breakfast; her brother buys liquor by the suitcase. The height of adventure and success for Joan is a yacht party where she boldly talks everyone into skinny dipping (well, stripping down to their underwear) out on the ocean.

    The father dies and it turns out he's broke; the picture turns to chapter two, or, How will the spoiled kids survive? –Well, the brother finds work with a bootlegging mob, and Joan gets a job as a cub reporter. (Influential friend of the family helps her out,, she's not remotely qualified, but shows a knack for the work right away!) Rather quickly, the brother finds himself over his head in the sordid business of bootlegging...and Joan, eager for a real story instead of the tea parties she's initially assigned to, takes guessed it, the mob.

    There's more to it than that, including Joan's sometime boyfriend (Lester Vail), who half-heartedly offers to marry her when her fortune goes kaput and hangs around when she sets off to make her own success; and Cliff Edwards as the veteran reporter who mentors Joan at the paper but hears too much for his own good at a speakeasy.

    Clark Gable is riveting as boss gangster Jake Luva; pre-mustache, the swagger is already there. His first scene features a cigarette-lighting routine with girlfriend Natalie Moorhead (excellent in a tiny role as the soon-to-be discarded moll): he blows smoke in her face, she blows out his lighter, and they hold a stare for a lingering shot that speaks more about their characters' relationship than any of their dialog even attempts.

    Midway through the story you have a pretty clear idea of where the plot is going to go….but the second half of the picture is still livelier than the first: at least the characters have some purpose in the second half. Crawford is especially good: she is always at the center as the picture revolves through her relationships with the various men in her life—lover, brother, mentor, gangster.

    Joan also gets in one good dance—undercover as a chorus girl, she sees her former rich kid friends in the audience and really puts on a number.

    No classic as far as plot goes, or dialog…but worth seeing for Crawford's performance.

    Research question: How would a 1931 movie audience have been impressed by spoiled rich girl Crawford flashing an electric hair dryer?
  • bkoganbing17 November 2010
    Joan Crawford got to display some of her dancing talents which brought her to films in the first place in Dance Fools Dance. She also was paired for the first time with Clark Gable. Although Gable was sixth down on the billing the impression he made assured that he and Crawford would work together again.

    In fact when Dance Fools Dance came out Crawford was already shooting another film, Laughing Sinners with Neil Hamilton and Johnny Mack Brown as her leads. The reviews Gable got made Louis B. Mayer scrap all the footage that had been shot with Brown and Gable was immediately recast in that picture.

    Crawford and William Bakewell play a couple of rich kids whose father William Holden loses everything in the Crash of 29 and dies from the shock of it. And I mean he lost everything as the mansion and its furnishings are auctioned off to pay all the debts the estate owes. Both of them have to go to work, Bakewell not all pleased with that prospect.

    Joan goes to work for a newspaper, writing sob sister stuff and she proves she has a knack for it. Bakewell on the other hand gets a job with your friendly bootlegger and his boss who is Clark Gable.

    At this point the film makes use of the real life incidents of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the murder of reporter Jake Lingle in Chicago who covered the gangland beat. Cliff Edwards who plays the reporter does an excellent job, possibly the best acted part next to Gable.

    Playing opposite Crawford as her ever faithful boyfriend from the good old rich days is Broadway actor Lester Vail. I looked Vail up on the Broadway Database and he had considerable stage career. He did not do too many films and truth be told he did not register well as a screen presence. No wonder all the talk was about the few scenes Gable and Crawford had together when she went undercover to investigate the murder of her friend and colleague Edwards.

    Though it goes over the top in the melodrama toward the end Dance Fools Dance was a significant milestone in the careers of two screen legends.
  • This is not a great precode, but it's good enough to keep your interest, particularly if you are fans of Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, or even Cliff Edwards. As others have already mentioned, it is historical for being the initial teaming of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, although Gable is sixth or seventh billed at this point. Don't expect Gable the gallant cad in this one - here he is pure cad.

    The film is largely an unremarkable morality tale about the follies of the very wealthy spoiling their children even into adulthood to the point where they complain about having to "get up in the middle of the night (9 AM) to eat breakfast.", which are the sentiments of the two Jordan children. When Wall Street crashes, dad dies from the shock and Bonnie Jordan (Joan Crawford) and her brother are left penniless. Bonnie chooses to break into newspaper reporting, but her brother chooses a less honest option which brings him into contact with Gable the gangster. After her close friend, reporter Bert Scranton (Cliff Edwards), is shot to death, Bonnie decides to go undercover as a dancer at Gable's nightclub to try to get to the bottom of the murder. She solves the crime, but at great personal cost.

    The best parts of this film are watching Joan Crawford in a dance number and watching the great chemistry Crawford and Gable have together. You get bigger doses of Crawford and Gable together in "Possessed", which was made later this same year - 1931. Joan Crawford was already a big star at this point. As for Clark Gable, he has to wait until he manhandles Norma Shearer in "A Free Soul" before he catapults to true stardom.
  • This is the third Crawford film that I have seen, the others were "Whatever happened to Baby Jane" and "Mildred Pierce". What a beauty she was back then and what a personality too. Much different than the one she would show later in her film career. This movie was a joy to watch.

    This is a story about a girl who's wealthy father dies leaving her and brother penniless. She finds a job as a reporter and her brother a job as a bootlegger with the mob. Newcomer Clark Gable plays the head of the mob. Trouble happens and kid brother talks then sister comes running to help, though she has to deal with Gable first. This is the movie that put Gable on the map. It would be the first of nine films they would star together at M-G-M.

    The storyline is typical but Crawford and Gable made it good. The supporting cast is good as well. This was Lester Vail's first film(though he only made four more). William Bakewell, playing the brother, was funny when he was telling Bonnie to become a runway model and did that strike a pose! Hello!!

    I would recommend this film to anyone who wants a glimpse into Crawford's early work.
  • Bonnie and Rodney Jordan (Joan Crawford, William Bakewell) lose everything in the stock market crash. First their father dies of a heart attack and then they discover why: he lost his entire fortune in the crash. Now broke for the first time, Bonnie and Rodney must go to work. Bonnie gets a job as a reporter. Rodney goes to work for bootlegger Jake Luva (Clark Gable). The two being on opposite sides of the law leads to inevitable conflict.

    Middle-of-the-road crime drama will appeal most to fans of Crawford and Gable. It's hardly the best work of either, though. It's a pre-Code film, which sometimes is all you have to say to get some classic film fans interested in a movie. Personally I didn't see anything all that risqué in this one. An early scene of a bunch of people in their underwear going for a swim seems to get the most talk but it's pretty tame despite the description. The story is something that was done many times and better over the years, in one variation or another. The insipid romance between Joan and Lester Vail leaves a lot to be desired.
  • This is one of Joan Crawford's best Talkies. It was the first Gable-Crawford pairing, and made it evident to MGM and to audiences that they were a sizzling team, leading the studio to make seven more films with them as co-stars.

    The film convincingly depicts the downward slide of a brother and sister who, after their father loses everything in the stock market crash, must fend for themselves and work for a living. Life is hard in the Depression, and soon even their attempts at finding legitimate work prove futile, and they resort to underworld activity.

    Joan Crawford is excellent as the socialite-turned-moll. She's smart, complex, and believable. She even tempers the theatrical stiffness of the other actors' early Talkie acting style. Clark Gable is a diamond-in-the rough, masculine and gruff as the no-nonsense gangster who becomes involved with Crawford's character. The same year he would play a similar and even more successful role opposite Norma Shearer in "A Free Soul", securing his position as top male sex symbol at MGM.

    If you like Crawford in this type of role, don't miss "Paid", which she did a year earlier, which is also among her best early Talkie performances.
  • Dance, Fools, Dance (1931)

    *** (out of 4)

    Fun Pre-Code has a father dropping dead when he learns that he's lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929. His daughter (Joan Crawford) and son (William Bakewell) have no money and never had to work a day in their lives until now. She goes to work as a reporter for a newspaper while he gets involved with a gangster (Clark Gable) and soon all three are going to collide. DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE is a must-see if you're a fan of the starts or just this era in history. I always enjoy watching these early films from the 30's because you just never really know what type of wildness you're going to get. The film starts off at a society party where all the young adults decide to go swimming even though there's not enough bathing suits. The entire stuff dealing with the stock market crash was obviously still very hurtful to most in 1931 so many films from this era used it for starting point on a plot. I thought the film was extremely entertaining thanks in large part to the excellent performances with Crawford leading the way. She gets to play a rich society brat, a hard-working reporter and an undercover gangster's girl and she does a very good job with all three. Gable is also excellent as the gangster and there's just no question about it but he and Crawford just had a certainly magic to all their films together. Bakewell is good as the brother and there's nice support from Cliff Edwards and Lester Vail. I'm not going to ruin the ending but it's certainly a great one and something that Tarantino would likely do nearly seventy-years later. DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE is a must see for fans of the genre and there's no question the stars are in good form.
  • A very good film by MGM back in 1930--this one is non-stop viewing. It was nice to see Clark Gable in a non-hero role and once again, great acting by Gable and Joan Crawford. One scene that stands out for me, is where Clark Gable slaps William Bakewell in the face. Now, I don't know if Bakewell actually got hit in the kisser, but his facial expression sure looked like he did!! This film is not dated at all--it is that good of a film. Very good movie all around.
  • In one respect, this film was ahead of its time and in another respect a typical story from the classic film era.

    It was about 35 years ahead of its time in some of the immoral characters and general sleazy atmosphere - early sleaze, if you will, and it's not bad. It's not great, either, by any stretch of the imagination. A lot of pictures were similar back in the early '30s, right before the Code was instituted. It features many unlikeable characters, low morals and two stars that were, at least to me, unappealing: a young Joan Crawford and a young Clark Gable. Both, for some reason, thought they were big sex symbols back then. Well, Gable made it to that status eight years later as one but Crawford, who always thought she was no matter what age, was never one.

    Before he became a star at the end of the decade with "Gone With The Wind," Gable played a lot of sleazy roles himself early in the '30s. This is another, where he's a gangster ("Jake Luva"). He's modeled in here after "Jake Lingle," a real-life gangster from the period who was involved in the famous "St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

    Anyway, he and his sister "Bonnie," played by Crawford, go from prosperous to penniless when the stock market crashes in 1929 and their dad is ruined. (He had been financing them.)

    Jake then goes the crooked way, and Bonnie goes straight as a reporter. This is was very cliché-ridden and the story was used in similar situations throughout films of the 30s and '40s, often with childhood pals going in opposite directions.

    If you are a classic-era film buff, this movie will interest you. Younger audiences will find this film way too dated to be enjoyed. I found myself somewhere in the middle, intrigued at watching these stars when they were young but not enamored with the story.
  • "Dance, Fools, Dance" is an early Crawford-Gable vehicle from 1931. Crawford plays a Bonnie Jordan, a wealthy young woman whose life consists of parties, booze, and stripping off her clothes to jump from a yacht and go swimming. This all ends when her father dies and leaves her and her brother (William Blakewell) penniless. Bonnie gets a job on a newspaper using the name Mary Smith; her brother goes to work for bootleggers. The head man is Jake Luva - portrayed by Clark Gable as he plays yet another crook. Later, of course, he would turn into a romantic hero, but in the early '30s, MGM used him as a bad guy. Not realizing that her brother is involved in illegal activity, Bonnie cozies up to Luva.

    Gable and Crawford made a great team. Her facial expressions are a little on the wild side, but that, along with her dancing, is one of the things that makes the movie fun. Look for Cliff Edwards, the voice of Jiminy Cricket, as Bert.

    It's always interesting to see the precode movies, and "Dance, Fools, Dance" is no exception.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Joan Crawford and William Bakewell are the spoiled, yet uneducated children of wealthy William Holden (Not the popular matinée idol of the 40's and '50's) who must find other means of supporting themselves when he looses all of his money. Crawford becomes a cub reporter on a big city newspaper while drunkard Bakewell gets involved in bootlegger Clark Gable's racket, seemingly to set him up with wealthy new clients. When Crawford's reporter pal (Cliff Edwards) is spotted investigating a St. Valentine's Day Massacre type assassination on members of a rival gang, Gable forces Bakewell to kill him. Crawford goes undercover to unmask those responsible, wins Gable's confidence, and is horrified by what she discovers.

    This quick-moving and entertaining melodrama was MGM's answer to "Little Caesar", "The Public Enemy" and "Scarface", with a woman's angle added to make things a little different. As she did in many of her earlier films (both silent and sound), Crawford dances up a storm, proving herself as one of the best "Jazz Babies" of the late 20's and early 30's. Star-to-be Clark Gable is billed way down in the credits, playing a brutish role that made him extremely unlikable, although his sexiness does show in his scenes with Crawford and the feisty Natalie Moorehead as his moll. In all of his future movies with the future "Mommy Dearest", Gable softened his image and was more the lover rather than the brute man, even though he was still all man. Bakewell, who was a major player in the early 30's (usually cast as insensitive and selfish young men who cause their families a lot of heartache), was never really likable on screen, and in bit parts of the late 30's and 40's, this trait continued as well.

    Well-written and excellently photographed, this is one of the films that assured Crawford stardom, making her a major threat to Norma Shearer. (Garbo would be in a category all her own.) There's a lot of pre-code innuendo, some great montages, and a memorable exchange between Natalie Moorehead and Gable involving a lit match.
  • When the story begins, life is great for Bonnie (Joan Crawford) and Rodney Jordan. Their father is rich and they epitomize the Flapper generation....with wild parties and a lifestyle that says there is no tomorrow. However, there is a tomorrow....the Great Depression...and soon the Jordan family is wiped out financially. Fortunately, Bonnie has more strength than you'd expect and she obtains a job working for a newpaper. As for Rodney, he's a weak, spineless young man...and soon falls in with the wrong crowd...led by the criminal, Jake Luva (Clark Gable). And, now the paths of the siblings will once again cross as Bonnie goes undercover to infiltrate the Luva gang.

    While the film may not be the most believable plot, it is highly entertaining. There are enough interesting plot twists to keep you awake and interested, as well as some raunchy Pre-Code dialog that might surprise a few folks today. Well worth seeing and exciting.
  • AAdaSC22 June 2019
    Joan Crawford (Bonnie) and William Bakewell (Rodney) are rich kids who like to party. They light up infront of their father at breakfast. They are cool. However, daddy William Holden dies and leaves them with nothing. This means they encounter the worst situation that can possibly happen, namely, the realization that they have to get a job. What a disaster. I really sympathized with them at this point. What a way to waste your life.

    So, Crawford uses her connections to get a job with a newspaper where she forms a close working alliance with fellow journalist Cliff Edwards (Bert). Brother Bakewell thrives by using his connections to sell illegal booze. Good for those connections. It's good to see that a lifetime of partying can pay off. Bakewell heads into the dangerous gangland territory headed by Clark Gable (Jake) and this leads to brother and sister crossing paths once more, only this time they are not in swimsuits. It's an entertaining story and film.

    The cast are good although Crawford is given a boyfriend who outstays his welcome in the film. She also gets do show us some dance moves - didn't expect that feather to her bow.

    I guess the moral of the story is don't get a job.
  • If you want to see Joan Crawford when she's young and darling, and you don't want to sit through a silent movie, your best options are Dancing Lady and Dance, Fools, Dance. In both movies, she's paired with Clark Gable, and in both movies she gets to show off her dancing talents in cute tap-dancing numbers in skimpy costumes.

    While in Dancing Lady, Joan is a chorus girl who gratefully giggles, "Thank you!" after Clark smacks her bottom, in Dance, Fools, Dance, she detests Clark. She's a newspaper worker under cover to expose the criminal dealings of his bootlegging organization. Clark plays a bad guy in this movie, and you'll even get to see a rare performance without his mustache. He hams it up as a stereotypical gangster, but keep in mind that this is a very early talkie.

    Joan dances to the popular tunes "Little White Lies" and "Free and Easy," and gets to play a variety of emotions throughout her role, from society lady to destitute to chorus girl to reporter to ganger's moll. This movie isn't very well known, and it's not as cute as Dancing Lady, but if you're in the mood for a drama, give it a chance.

    DLM Warning: If you suffer from vertigo or dizzy spells, like my mom does, this movie might not be your friend. About an hour in, right after Joan Crawford decides to go under cover, there's a scene change that involves a warped image, and the motion will make you sick. In other words, "Don't Look, Mom!"
  • The first pairing of Crawford and Gable is Good.

    Both would go on to improve as the talkies continued to get better technically. The film I viewed had an excessive amount of scratches, although it was probably the best print available.

    The basic plot of the film needs work. It can't seem to stick to one theme and execute it before moving on to something else.

    The hysterical theatrics involved in the film do not necessarily reflect the times as this kind of reaction was only seen in the movies -- as we see here.

    Nevertheless, it's good enough to watch, and it's a movie you like despite the ridiculous ending. I guess they had to do it because high society girls had to be saved from the grind of the work day world. The world that all the rest of us inhabit.
  • DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1931), directed by Harry Beaumont, is not a movie starring The Three Stooges participating in an all night dance marathon, nor is it a musical starring the comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey. Oddly enough this is only a title, though there are some dancing sequences involved, but not enough to categorize this as a musical. Overall, this is a Depression-era story that opens with high society party, followed by newspaper/newsroom melodrama before shifting to the its popular genre of the time, a crime story. With the leading players being Joan Crawford and Lester Vail, by the time the movie reaches its conclusion at 82 minutes, the names of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable immediately come to mind for their first on-screen collaboration together.

    The story opens with a society party on a yacht hosted by socialite Bonnie Jordan (Joan Crawford). Bonnie is loved by Robert Townsend (Lester Vail), but she prefers her carefree lifestyle with her rich friends as opposed to becoming his wife. After the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which results to a fatal heart attack on Bonnie's father, Stanley (William Holden). leaving both Bonnie and her spoiled younger brother, Rodney (William Bakewell) paupers. With most of their personal possessions sold at public auction andf dismissing their servants, Rodney refuses to take the family lawyer Selby's (Hale Hamilton) advice by going to work. As for Bonnie, she breaks away from her former high society lifestyle and friends by getting an apartment in the Chicago district and working for a newspaper under her editor, Mr. Parker (Purnell Pratt. Rodney, however, gets in with the wrong crowd where his friend, Wally Baxter (Earle Foxe) introduces him to Jake Luva (Clark Gable), nightclub owner, bootlegger and tough crime boss. When Bonnie's reporter friend, Bert Scranton (Cliff Edwards), gets shot down by one of Luva's gang for learning too much about his organization, Bonnie is assigned to go undercover as Mary Smith from Missouri, to not only work as a dancer at Luva's cabaret, but to gather enough information to convict Scranton's killer. While her assignment goes well as planned, Bonnie eventually learns too much for her own good. Others in the cast include: Natalie Moorehead (Della); Joan Marsh (Sylvia); Russell Hopton (Whitey); and Sam McDaniel.

    While DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE, is early Crawford at best, it's also early Gable, sans mustache, treating 'em rough, and giving all the orders. After entering the scene 36 minutes into the story, Gable no doubt gathers the most attention in the story as both villain and aggressor trying to get Crawford's Bonnie to "be nice to him." William Bakewell resumes his type-casting in his usual cowardly rich brother more concerned about what his father left him in the will as opposed to his death. He spends much of the time smoking and drinking, and learning the hard way that crime does not pay. Lester Vail, whose name comes second after Crawford's, is definitely a forgotten name in cinema history. The only thing to recommend for his performance is that his role might have worked to better advantage had it been played by the up and rising Robert Montgomery. Natalie Moorehead as Jake Luva's tough/blonde mistress, has the film's most notable scene where Jake Luva blows cigarette smoke in her face followed by her blowing out the fire of the lighted match held on Luva's hand. Being a pre-code motion picture, no doubt there's suggestive dialogue, but nothing as suggestive where the society guests cool themselves off on a hot summer night by taking a swim in their underwear.

    DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE starts off well, slows down a bit before picking up speed during the newspaper vs. underworld segment. Distributed on home video in 1990 as part of "Forbidden Hollywood" tapes with Leonard Maltin, movie critic, doing an introduction about the movie itself. Also available on DVD, DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE is in a class in itself, especially when Crawford and Gable are concerned. Watch it next time it comes on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. (***)
  • Dance, Fools, Dance begins with a party onboard on yacht in which the younglings jump off the boat for a late night swim in their underwear while the older men are ignorant of a possible fall in stocks and the idea of forthcoming great depression; the last days of the carefree, roaring twenties seen through the lens of 1931.

    Bonnie Jordan (Joan Crawford) and her brother Rodney (William Bakewell) are young, glamorous people who never worked a day in their life and show no resentment for it either, from a father who doesn't want his children to have the hard time he had. They don't exactly mourn over the death of their father but the loss of their fortune following the stock market crash is the tragedy which gets a reaction out of them. Regardless Bonnie deals with the loss of their fortune surprisingly well and accepts the fault of being left nothing from their father because she and her brother didn't finish school. This is the crux of the character and what makes her interesting. She doesn't choose the easy way out of getting married to a wealthy man even though the opportunity comes to her but rather desires the thrill to make it on her own as she herself later puts it.

    I don't believe many people are aware of just how endearing Crawford was in her younger, pre-shoulder pad days. In Dance, Fools, Dance she exemplifies a working-class heroine with an aura of refreshingly simple, straightforward bravery which really makes you route for her character; plus there is the joy of watching her flex her dancing talents.

    Clark Gable is a mere 5th on the cast list, even William Holden (no, not that one) is higher than him but his introductory scene is hard to forget. The downbeat piano music as one of his servants puts a blazer on him as he then blows smoke in a woman's face; tells you everything you need to know without a spoken word. Likewise, Bonnie's brother Rodney is a memorable character himself as someone who is shocked by the criminal underworld where his alcohol came from before the depression after taking his supply of booze for granted for so long. Likewise, the other great cast member is Cliff Edwards as Bert Scranton who makes for an endearing comic sidekick and mentor to Bonnie.

    Dance, Fools Dance isn't quite a great film, its concept could be fleshed out and explored to a greater degree and would have been ripe for a remake (and maybe a title that wouldn't sound like something a James Bond villain would say). Although even at that despite the film being imperfect it would still be hard to top with that endearingly creaky, early 30's, pre-code charm.
  • The first film to pair Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, "Dance, Fools, Dance" is a pre-Code morality tale that is mostly forgettable, but it does contain some noteworthy moments.

    Chief among these are the scenes of Crawford where she shows the beauty and fire of her youth. When Gable, playing a bootlegger, is attracted to her raw sexuality, it is believable (by any standards, but especially by the standards of the early thirties; she appears wanton).

    Crawford is playing a lady of privilege who, due to the Great Crash, must now make it on her own. But she is not a mere cabaret dancer like Gable thinks.

    Crawford's character is, above everything else, proud. She is an individualist and someone who will not marry for other than love, no matter her circumstances. It's the portrait of a character worth watching, but the script undermines this portrayal with its formulaic resolution.

    Special kudos to Adrian, the designer who dressed Crawford and so many other MGM actresses in strikingly beautiful creations.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Dance, Fools, Dance (1932)

    Here's another Joan Crawford movie to add to your list. Here, she plays a spoiled rich girl, Bonnie Jordan. Her and her brother, Rodney (William Bakewell) are partying like it's 1999. Bonnie is seeing Bob (Lester Vail) more out of habit. Everything is free and easy.

    Then the stock market crashes and old man Stanley Jordan, played by William Holden (not the same Bill Holden that you're thinking) collapses on the trading room floor of a heart attack. All of their money is gone, they have to sell the mansion out from under them and (gulp) get a job. They become a pariah by their former rich friends. Even Bob uneasily proposes to Bonnie, out of pity, which Bonnie turned down.

    Bonnie gets a job on a newspaper from her dad's old friends, but Roddy is kind of dangling a bit. He falls in with some bootleggers run by Jake Luva (Clark Gable). It doesn't take long before Roddy realizes that he's way over his head with these guys, who massacres a rival gang.

    Bonnie goes undercover as a dancer in Luva's speak-easy to try to get the goods on him. Jake is taken by her nice legs and is putting the moves on her to her disgust. Maybe Bonnie's is in way over her head too.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I don't know if fans of Aurania Rouverol's Andy Hardy will take to this offering from their favorite author with the same degree of enthusiasm. For this time, Andy — brilliantly played by William Bakewell in the stand-out performance of a career stretching from 1925 to 1955 — is a drink-sodden, good-for-nothing-but-evil wastrel, a killer who shoots down a friendly acquaintance in cold blood in order to save his own miserable hide. Sis, superbly interpreted here by Joan Crawford, is likewise a spoiled brat of uncertain virtue, who, realizing the emptiness of her callow society friends, changes her thinking when forced to fend for herself instead of living off her dad. Yes, like Judge Hardy, dad is a bit of a philosopher. His credo is: "Do the other guy before he does you!" Dad is most realistically brought to life here by William Holden. His death scene is utterly convincing. (In real life, Holden himself died on March 3, 1932). But I'm neglecting two of the finest players in the movie, namely Cliff Edwards and Clark Gable. Edwards is ingratiatingly deft as the star reporter who worms information out of Bakewell; whilst Clark Gable is a powerhouse of corrupt fascination in this first of his eight movies with Joan Crawford.

    The nominal hero of this picture, Broadway actor-director Lester Vail, rates as the weakest "star" of the lot. Even minor character players like the exotic Natalie Moorhead (as Gable's moll), sly Russell Hopton (a cagey thug) and blonde belle, Joan Marsh (a jealous socialite), easily out-shine the staid and stagey Mr. Vail. Fortunately, despite his second billing, his appearances in the action are astonishingly brief.

    Under-rated Harry Beaumont has astutely directed with wonderful pace and an admirably polished style; whilst the shimmering photography, realistic art direction and flattering costumes are well up to the classy standards we expect of M-G-M. It's a surprise to find that this seems to be Aurania Rouverol's only screenplay. ("A Family Affair", the introductory "Andy Hardy", was based on a stage play). She's darn good. Her dialogue and characters are really alive.

    In short, powerful, if grim entertainment. I was going to add, "with a happy ending", but the idea of Joan being saddled with a stodgily repentant Mr. Vail is maybe not all that felicitous. This movie is now available on an excellent Warner Archive DVD.
  • "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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Joan Crawford is Bonnie Jordan, an ex-society girl working as a reporter investigating the murder of a fellow worker named Bert Scranton played by future Jiminy Cricket, Cliff Edwards. She goes undercover as a dance hall girl at gangster Jake Luva's joint. Luva is played by Clark Gable, at the time just a working actor but possibly due to his brief kiss with Ms. Crawford, about to become a superstar. In fact, the king of the box office for much of the 30s. The way the camera is stationed as well as the lack of music score reveals the picture's early talkie roots but the expressions of the actors are enough to carry it to still-interesting heights. In summary, Dance, Fools, Dance is still well worth a look for the historical first teaming of Crawford and Gable.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Joan Crawford had just begun her "working girl makes good" phase with the dynamic "Paid" (1930). She had never attempted a role like that before and critics were impressed. So while other actresses were wondering why their careers were foundering (because they were clinging to characters that had been the "in" thing a few years before but were now becoming passe) Joan was listening to the public and securing her longevity as an actress. The depression was here and jazz age babies who survived on an endless round of parties were frowned upon. Of course, if you became rich through immoral means but suffered for it - that was alright.

    This film starts out with a spectacular house boat party. Bonnie Jordan (Joan Crawford) is the most popular girl there - especially when she suggests that everyone go swimming in their underwear!!! However, when Bonnie's father has a heart attack, because of loses on the stock market, both Bonnie and her brother, Rodney (William Bakewell) realise who their real friends are. After Bob Townsend (Lester Vail - a poor man's Johnny Mack Brown) offers to do the "right thing" and marry her - they had just spent a night together when Bonnie declared (with abandon) that she wants love on approval - she starts to show some character by deciding to get a job.

    She finds a job at a newspaper and quickly impresses by her will to do well. Her working buddy is Bert Scranton (Cliff Edwards) and together they are given an assignment to write about the inside activities of the mob. Rodney also surprises her with the news that he also has a job. She is thrilled for him but soon realises it is bootlegging and he is mixed up with cold blooded killer, Jake Luva (Clark Gable). Rodney witnesses a mass shooting and goes to pieces, "spilling the beans" to the first person he sees drinking at the bar - which happens to be Bert. He is then forced to kill Bert and after- wards he goes into hiding. The paper pulls out all stops in an effort to find Bert's killer and sends Bonnie undercover as a dancer in one of Jake's clubs. (Joan does a very lively dance to "Accordian Joe" - much to Sylvie's disgust). The film ends with a gun battle and as Rodney lies dying, Bonnie tearfully phones in her story.

    This is a super film with Crawford and Gable giving it their all. Natalie Moorehead, who as Sylvie shared a famous "cigarette scene" with Gable early in the film, was a stylish "other woman" who had her vogue in the early thirties. William Bakewell had a huge career (he had started as a teenager in a Douglas Fairbanks film in the mid 20s). A lot of his roles though were weak, spineless characters. In this film he played the weak brother and was completely over-shadowed by Joan Crawford and the dynamic newcomer Clark Gable - maybe that was why he never became a star.

    Highly Recommended.
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