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Friday, October 8, 2010

MANNEQUIN (1937)

Joan Crawford’s last few vehicles hadn’t come off (the apologetic trailer calls this ‘her best role in the last 5 years’), so it was back to the working-class striver parts that had made her a star. Under the irony-free gaze of tenement romance specialist Frank Borzage, this opens nicely with Joan, the sole wage earner in her family, refusing to peel even one more boiled potato for Dad. By the next reel, she’s married a big-talking crumb-bum (Alan Curtis) just to get out; left her sweatshop job for the chorus line; and been unaccountably wooed (almost stalked) by a self-made millionaire, Spencer Tracy in their one pic together. You only have to go back to 1931's POSSESSED to see how much Crawford has slipped. She just can’t bear to drop the cultivated tones she struggled to acquire, and her fresh energy is all but smothered in makeup & clothes. One outfit with a big black hat looks like a Hallowe’en costume. Then, just when you think the story is going nowhere, the screenplay throws in an appalling bit of union bashing to facilitate the big romantic finish. What audience was this pic shooting for?

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: As mentioned, Clarence's Brown's POSSESSED/'31 is a small gem, and a revelation if you only know Crawford from her later pics. Once out on VHS, it should make a DVD debut soon. Confusingly, Crawford made a second (unrelated) film with the same title in 1947 . You want the one from '31, accept no substitutions!

CONTEST: The brother of this film’s producer had a better understanding of management/labor relations, writing a few years later:

The workingman? He’s turning into something called organized labor. And you’re not going to like that one little bit when you find out it means your workingman expects something as his right and not your gift.

Name the brothers and the referenced film to win our usual MAKSQUIBS prize, a WriteUp of any NetFlix DVD.

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