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Sunday, March 16, 2014

FASHIONS OF 1934 (1934)

You know from the exposed navels (and three nude inches below!) that this came out a few months before the Hollywood Production Code clamped down on such naughtiness. But the rest of the crazed fashion spectacular stuffed inside this silly little comedy speaks in the uncensorable code of Warners dance master Busby Berkeley. A typically OTT musical ‘numbo,’ it begins with 200 Lovely Models with strapped on feathers astride figureheaded harps, like some mad S&M chorus line. Soon, the camera takes flight for an overhead shot of phallus & orifice consecration rites as models below manipulate ostrich plumes into a pulsating facsimile of a flower bud that opens its petals to reveal an erect, penetrating model. Yikes! Did Georgia O’Keeffe faint . . . or sue? Oh, there’s also a little movie plot surrounding this insanity, ‘the ‘Story of a Gay Rascal Who Fooled 50 Million French Women!,’ according to the trailer. Oo-la-la!! That’d be William Powell, on the cusp of a career-saving move from Warners to M-G-M. Here, he's a broke promoter who gets struggling fashion designer Bette Davis to help him steal the latest Paris designs before they leave the couturier salons. There’s help from Hugh Herbert’s soused ostrich farmer and Verree Teasdale’s phony Russian Countess. (How could you possibly be phony with that name?) Together, they fend off the lousy French accent of that veddy, veddy British actor Reginald Owen, along with a plot that can’t decide on any particular storyline. All good fun if you’re in the proper mood.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The print used for the Warner Archive VOD must have been from a re-release that reduced the title to FASHIONS. No doubt Warners, licking its wounds after seeing Powell reclaim major stardom in M-G-M’s THIN MAN, wanted to squeeze this one dry with post-1934 bookings.

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