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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I FOUND STELLA PARISH (1935)

Let’s see. There’s STELLA MARIS/’18, one of Mary Pickford’s best. And STELLA DALLAS, not so hot with Bette Midler in 1990, but great with Barbara Stanwyck in ‘37. Even better with Belle Bennett in ‘25. Of course, there’s always Brando yelling, “Stella! Stella!” Can’t place STELLA PARISH? No wonder, it’s trash. Or rather, as Kay Francis would have said, ‘Twash.’ Francis looks unspeakably glamorous as an American star of the London stage who skips town after opening night with nanny & child (an insufferable Sybil Jason) leaving romantically inclined producer Paul Lukas in the lurch. Hiding out in Manhattan under an assumed name, she’s uncovered by famous British reporter Ian Hunter, who not only finds her, but also falls in love. You’ll guess the rest. Idiotic, but watchable for those with a taste for 1930s women’s-magazine-fodder. It’s also worth a look for anyone curious about what those once ubiquitous personal appearance tours of the notorious might have looked like, since, after the revelations, Stella hits the infamy circuit as headliner before her bookings tumble from first-class playhouses to eight-a-day Burlesque joints. It’s just a five-minute set piece before Kay’s inevitable return to the top, but still an eye-opener. And far livelier than anything this film’s director Mervyn LeRoy did with the subject when he made GYPSY/’62.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Stalwart character actor Barton MacLane barely shows up (in shadow only) to blackmail Francis to America. How much plot got left on the cutting room floor?

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Already in serious decline @ Warners, Francis still caught a few breaks there. Try Joe May’s CONFESSION/’37. (see below)

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