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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE (1931)

In this Pre-Code Talkie (‘Speaking French’ in our poster), Joan Crawford loses her dad & her fortune to the Stock Market Crash, but finds a new life as a reporter, investigating gangsters in the bootleg booze racket. The role gives her a shot at her three main character types: rich, hedonistic flapper; working-class striver; low-gravity hoofer. Crawford got her start dancing and she made her mark in the silents playing flappers, but sound changed everything. Her attempts at a refined tone made her sound labored, and without the help of silent film ‘undercranking,’ her dancing looked earthbound. But she suddenly became convincing, even touching, playing working stiffs, taking shorthand, peeling potatoes or on a production line.* Here, Crawford gets nice support from 6th billed Clark Gable as a sharp, deadly gangster; Cliff Edwards as an easy-going reporter; and William Bakewell as her weak-willed brother. And if Harry Beaumont wasn’t the liveliest director of the day, he rouses himself for a tough, atmospheric street shooting. (Atmosphere courtesy of lenser Charles Rosher.)
DOUBLE-BILL: *Crawford’s previous pic, PAID/’30, helped locate Joan’s specific wrong-side-of-the-tracks character, and director Clarence Brown made it magical in POSSESSED/’31. You can find the latter thru Warners VOD.
CONTEST: Howard Hawks’s gangster classic SCARFACE was shot around the same time as this film (though it had a delayed release in 1932). The two films couldn’t be more different, but they do share an odd touch. Listen for it to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of any NetFlix DVD.

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