Saturday, January 25, 2014

Four Beauties

Tallulah Bankhead

"Faithless," 1932.
Tallulah Bankhead had a much bigger career on stage than on film.  I had only really known her from Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" (1944).  Hollywood tried to make her a star in the early thirties, but they had a difficult time casting her.  I think she's actually well cast in "Faithless" as a society girl who blows her fortune, then mooches off her friends until they tire of her.  She ends up a kept woman of a crass, married businessman.  When she runs into an old flame, noble but now penniless and unemployed, she takes a chance and marries him.  They struggle to find work, living in cheap hotels, going without meals.  Tallulah, desperate, thinks about turning tricks; a kind-hearted cop gets her a job. 

I was impressed with the way she goes from being a shallow, spoiled socialite, to hardened, bitter mistress.   And the later scenes with her husband, Robert Montgomery, are quite touching as they struggle to find work and they move from one cheap boarding house to another.  They seem really desperate as they get work and lose it, and can't afford food or doctors.

Joan Crawford

"Grand Hotel," 1932
Joan Crawford had already appeared in over thirty films when she appeared in the ensemble film "Grand Hotel" in 1932.  She's great in a cast that includes two Barrymores, Greta Garbo, and Wally Beery.  I like the way she plays businessman Beery into getting him to pay through the nose for her secretarial services; her playful banter with John Barrymore is pretty funny; and her final scenes with the old man Lionel Barrymore are very touching.

Rita Hayworth 

"You'll Never Get Rich," 1941.
I couldn't get into this film.  Not enough dancing or singing, considering it stars Fred Astaire along with Rita.  Showgirl Rita is being chased by an impresario; when his wife finds out Fred has to step in and pretend to be one the guy who's really interested in Rita.  But what man wouldn't be?  The characters go through great lengths to avoid connecting with each other; the contrived plot gets in the way of the people actually pursuing realistic goals.

But there are some nice comedic scenes, especially featuring Astaire and Hayworth.

Veronica Lake

"Sullivan's Travels" 1941.
Here's Veronica Lake in one of my favorite films, from one of my favorite Depression era directors, Preston Sturges.  Veronica Lake had such a promising start to her career, it saddens me she didn't make more noteworthy films.  She's also wonderful in "I Married a Witch," "This Gun for Hire," "The Blue Dahlia" and "The Glass Key."  Looking at her bio there are a few films of hers I need to see, including "Ramrod" (also with Joel McCrea).  But too many of her films were of lesser quality and I don't think they made the most of her talents. 

(all sketches by J. Betke)

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