31 July 2020 | SimonJack
Vaudeville parts, choppy script, and low quality do this film in
This movie came out nine months after the stock market crash of 1929 that began the Great Depression. Hollywood responded to the depression by making many comedies, musicals and other escapist films. "Love Among the Millionaires" would be about as escapist as one could get. Everyone here has a job, there's a very wealthy family, and there's no mention of a stock market crash or depression. And, it's a comedy, musical and Cinderella romance. Only, in this story, the girl doesn't' know her man is a prince.
Yet, with all of those aspects, this film just barely makes it out of the starting blocks. It suffers from much dead-end Vaudeville, a choppy script, and weak production quality. The only good aspects are the convoluted story toward the end, and some scenes of family members running their café.
The film stars Clara Bow, a sex symbol of the Roaring Twenties. She was one of the female leads of the last decade of the silent era who had a good voice and made it into sound pictures. She was a dependable major draw at the box office and one of the highest paid stars of the time. And, she had a moderate singing voice as here and in the 1931 film, "No Limit." But she said she hated "talkies" because they crimped her style. She was dogged with tax problems, and had a lengthy trial over her secretary's mismanagement of her funds. She was tired and felt the pressures of work, public scandals and scripts that weren't to her liking. So, after marrying cowboy actor Rex Bell in 1931, she retired early and lived the rest of her life on their Nevada ranch.
Here, Bow plays Pepper Whipple who runs a railroad café named after her, with her dad, Pop Whipple (Charles Sellon), and her 10-year-old kid sister, Penny Whipple (Mitzi Green). Railroad cafes are a thing of the past. From the early decades of railroads well into the mid-20tth century, such cafes existed in towns that had large railroad yards, branch-off lines, or crew switches. The railroaders tended to congregate around such cafes.
Mitzi Green plays an animated character behind the cash register. She knows the workers by name and exchanges jokes, news and wisecracks with them. This also is a familiar scene from the past. Family members worked in mom and pop cafes, including younger members who often ran the cash register. I had a similar experience from age 12 through my teens, working in my dad's steakhouse restaurant and bar.
Mitzi Green was a child star whose career transitioned into her adult life. But, she left Hollywood for several years and acted on the Broadway stage. She had a good singing voice and in 1937 was the first person to sing the Rodgers and Hart hit tune, "My Funny Valentine," in the Broadway musical, "Babes in Arms." She married and raised four children and appeared in occasional films and then a TV series into the mid-1950s. She died of cancer in 1969 at just 48 years of age.
A big piece of this film is comedy exchanges between two guys, Clicker Watson and Boots McGee. Stuart Erwin and Richard Gallagher play those parts of railroad men who have their eyes set on Pepper. But their dialog is mostly Vaudevillian that flops. By 1930 and sound pictures, Vaudeville comedy was a thing of the distant past. It subtracts substantially from the movie.
The film has a nice twist to the lower-class working girl being an outcast to her love's family. Those are mostly minor parts but played well enough. Most aren't names that people recognized beyond that time. Some, like Stanley Smith who plays Pepper's sweetheart, had relatively short film careers and left the cinema at a young age.
For a Paramount picture, even in 1930, the production and technical aspects of this film aren't very good. The script is choppy,
and, frankly, the inclusion of considerable time of deadpan comedy with Clicker and Boots stinks and pulls this film down. Only those who are fans of Clara Bow are likely to enjoy this film.
Here are most of the good lines from the movie.
Clicker Watson, "Say, Bill, are there any "S"es in Cincinnati?" Bill, Telegrapher, "No, you're thinking of Chicago." (He snorts and chuckles.)
Clicker Watson, "There's a name for guys like you, but I can't think of it."
Penny Whipple, "Pardon my split lip." Boots McGee, "I'm sorry I didn't split it." Penny, "Oh, don't be so plebeian."
Boots McGee, "You know, if I'm every electrocuted, I would love to have you sitting on my lap."
Clicker Watson, after washing soot off his face, "Pop, is uh, is the face all right?" Pop Whipple, "Well, it's uh, clean anyway."
William Jordan, "You mean to tell me that you're falling in love with a waitress?" Jerry Hamilton, "No." Jordan, "I thought you were kidding." Jerry, "I've already fallen. I'm lying flat on my back."
Jerry Hamilton, "Oh, Pepper, money isn't everything." Pepper Whipple, "I know. But it'll do till something better comes along."
Jerry Hamilton, "I mean it, Pepper. I think you're... the salt of the earth." Pepper Whipple, "That's funny. Pepper - I think you're the salt."
Jerry Hamilton, "When you're in love, you can't see the patches." Pepper Whipple, "I know. But they're there, just the same."
Boots McGee, to Clicker, "Listen, I'd leave you here, only I don't wanna pull a dirty trick on the alligators."
Pop Whipple, "Four wheels and nine blowouts."
Pop Whipple, "Say, them black seed sandwiches is swell, ain't they, huh?" Mr. Hamilton, "That's caviar." Pop Whipple, "Yeah, yeah. Never had any of it in my beanery, no siree."