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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

MAN WANTED (1932)

With her streamlined, art moderne sexiness, Kay Francis brought some of Paramount’s raffish, sophisticated naughtiness to the proletariat Warner Bros. when she switched studios in 1932. But too many of her Warners projects were underdeveloped, skipping crucial links (as here) or simply giving out somewhere in mid-second act (like her next with director William Dieterle, JEWEL ROBBERY/’32). But taken ‘as is,’ these early Pre-Code releases are generally good company in their ‘daring’ manner. In this one, Francis looks aside while her polo-loving husband (Kenneth Thomson) plays the field . . . post-chukker. Kay doesn’t mind, she’s busy as a high-powered magazine editor with a handsome new male secretary (David Manners) to concentrate on. Sure, he’s officially engaged to Una Merkel, but doesn’t Una get along better with Manners’ roommate, Andy Devine? Yep, it’s a standard gender-reverse rom-com. It’s just that in this one, the surprises come not from any plot twists, but from twisted attitudes. For a change, it’s the boys who are sharing the one-bedroom flat; and not a word on how emasculating it must be for the guy to be working for a powerful female boss. That was unusual even for the Pre-Code period.

DOUBLE-BILL: Francis made all her best pics this year. At Warners with the fatalistic romance of ONE WAY PASSAGE/’32 (with William Powell perfectly cast); and a return to Paramount for the subversive comic-capitalism romance of an Ernst Lubitsch masterpiece, TROUBLE IN PARADISE/’32.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Lenser Gregg Toland in a rare showing on the Warners lot (on loan from Goldwyn?) makes magic with some gorgeous night-time lighting. Check out a little twilight scene at the boys’ apartment.

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