9 March 2012 | marcslope
Pre-Code, and how!
Fast little Warners item, from a play by Maurine Watkins--who wrote the source material for "Chicago," and this hard-boiled B is very much cut from the same cloth, with big-city corruption, tough-talking dames, and vice not always unrewarded. Ann Dvorak, always good in this sort of part, is the girl from the wrong side of the tracks whose attempts to crash high society are thwarted, and ends up a fugitive, for reasons she's not quite guilty and not quite innocent of. She's also an unwed mom, and not entirely an unsympathetic one, this being a year before they started fully enforcing the Production Code. Lee Tracy plays, as he was born to play, a fast-talking, fast-thinking newspaperman, and watching him at his peak is sort of like watching Cagney--he's so lively he's impossible not to like, even playing a reprobate like this. The story doesn't quite hang together: If Molly was really abandoned by her mom at seven, as she states early on, she's only 16 at the start of the film, which makes no sense at all. And while nobody, not even Tracy, is able to recognize the peroxide version of Molly as the same on-the-lam gal in the picture they have of her, her infant daughter does, at once. The tone's uneven, too, veering between melodrama and uneasy comedy. But Dvorak and Tracy are so watchable, and the supporting cast (Richard Cromwell, Guy Kibbee, Frank McHugh) so quintessential early-'30s Warners, it's a fine time-waster.