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Saturday, June 2, 2012

THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI (1934)

Irresistible. Thanks to scripter Anita Loos, Jean Harlow owned the funny, sexy broad department @ M-G-M in the mid-‘30s. Loos defined the type for Harlow’s studio debut in RED-HEADED WOMAN/’32 and, of course, years before in her signature creation, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES’ Lorelei Lee, the Little Girl from Little Rock. This film is, for all intents & purposes, The Further Adventures of Lorelei Lee, now a Little Girl from Missouri named Eadie. This platinum blonde even has a matching brunette sidekick in man-hungry Patsy Kelly. And, just like the novel, Harlow’s character is out to nab a millionaire while Kelly goes for the hunky doorman or the flatfoot. But the main story has Jean smoothly segueing from middle-aged Lewis Stone after he suicides to his business rival Lionel Barrymore. If only she wasn’t so attracted to that handsome wise-ass kid in the old man’s office. That’s Franchot Tone in a wonderfully likable perf. (Imagine Jon Hamm doing rom-com in the ‘30s.) And what luck!, he turns out to be Barrymore’s up-and-coming son. But marriage? Barrymore goes to extravagant ends to put the kibosh on things, but the plot has some sharp edges to go with the funny lines. Heck, even Jack Conway’s megging is up to speed on this zippy delight.

DOUBLE-BILL: Howard Hawks’ GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES/’53 made Loos’ creation far too coarse & obvious, with a leering, male adolescent tone that all but subverts Loos. But Jack Cole’s choreography & Travilla’s costumes undoubtedly stamped Marilyn Monroe’s form on Lorelei Lee . . . or was it vice versa?

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