17 October 2010 | hozana
A very thugly Fredric March.
Right away in the opening credits you can get a pretty good idea of what's going to be right and what's going to be wrong with this movie. It has two things going for it: the adorable kitten-faced Sylvia Sidney, and Fredric "Total Pro" March. But then the credits let slip the film's weak point: five writers. For a 70 minute film with basically only two characters? Five writers. And it shows.
Well, Lillie (Sylvia Sidney) is a young runaway who has been fired from her first job, chorus-girling, and then gets her purse snatched by Mace (Fredric March)'s sidekick, Spats, at a carnival. Mace is one of those card-mixer-upper guys you used to see in New York subway stations. Apparently this used to be a legitimate career, because later he is offered a job in another carnival.
Mace feels bad because he accepted half of Lillie's money from Spats before he met her and heard her sad story. So when she and the other "cooch dancers" at the carnival are arrested, Mace has Spats rob their boss Bluch to get the $50 to bail Lillie out. The other cooch dancers are mercilessly left behind, to sit in a small town jail for six months.
Bluch beats the facts out of Spats (who then mysteriously disappears from the movie) and pretty soon Mace and Lillie are marooned in a nameless and non-descript town, while the very shady carnival moves on. They take adjoining hotel rooms, and although Mace professes a wish that Lillie would keep away from him, she soon finds ways to monopolize him out from under the blonde across the hall, "accidentally" ruining his only two shirts when he wants to go dancing, etc.
The dialogue is never cute, it is frequently nonsensical, and in some wince-worthy moments it is totally undeliverable. The characters are motiveless. The plot is snarled and fails to hold audience interest. The sets and costumes are unexceptional. The camera work and cinematography just sort of lay there. Basically I'm saying don't seek this movie out. Let it come to you, if that's your fate, but even then don't feel obliged to watch it unless you're a Fredric March completist. If you are, it's a bit of a curio, because he seems to be doing some sort of a Cagney impression.
Four stars out of ten.