15 October 2002 | howdymax
Will Hayes Would Have Loved This
Warner Bros had a reputation for pumping them out in the early 30's like chocolate covered Goobers at a Saturday Matinee. The story was typical Warner Bros from that time period.
Anne Dvorak, married to a successful lawyer and mother of a cute little 6 year old boy, becomes restless and looking for excitement, takes the boy and runs off with a small time hood. She eventually turns into a drunk (and worse). Her best friends (played by Joan Blondell and Bette Davis) give up on her and turn the boy over to his father. She continues to sink deeper and deeper into the filth as her husband divorces her and marries her best friend Joan. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, in a desperate attempt to pay off a gambling debt, kidnaps and holds the boy for ransom. The end is melodramatic and no real surprise, but it is exciting.
This film is interesting for a couple of reasons. It represents the kind of film that Warners did best in those years. Action, pathos, and the underworld. It is also interesting because of the casting. Although Humphrey Bogart plays a thug, he wasn't Mr Big in this one. He was just a run of the mill thug. Ann Dvorak seems to have switched characters with Bette Davis or Joan Blondell. She becomes more and more corrupt as the picture wears on until you are convinced she is beyond redemption. Bette and Joan, on the other hand, become more and more saintly until they are practically beatified by pictures end. I should mention the stock support players as well. Add Lyle Talbot (as the dispicable boyfriend), Edward Arnold (as Mr Big), Jack La Rue and Allen Jenkins (as the reliable hoods), and you have a Warner Bros winner.
Finally, there is the pre-code shenanigans. For a change, Joan Blondell doesn't sit on the edge of the bed, in her slip, rolling on a pair of stockings. Bette Davis does. By the way, this is the only picture I have ever seen where Bette Davis shamelessly displays her legs. And a fine set of legs at that. Look for the scene I just described as well as a scene at the beach. In another scene that would never have made it past the Hayes Office, Ann Dvorak comes out of the bedroom rubbing her nose when she realizes her son was kidnapped. Humphrey Bogart glances knowingly at the boys, rubs his nose, and sarcastically winks. A DOPE FIEND! There is a scene where she is passed out on the double bed. There is booze, cigarettes and ashtray on the bed, and a couple of cigars on the nightstand. In another scene she is splayed out on the couch with a drink in her hand, booze bottles all over the apartment when her little boy walks into the room. His face and clothes are filthy and he says he is hungry. She glances over at him, points to a tray of half eaten o'rdoevres, and says "eat that".
These little tidbits don't necessarily make it a great movie, but the cast and the story do.