As my movie-watching is increasingly outstripping my limited blogging time, I’m going to do a few shorter reviews of films I’ve seen recently, before they completely fade in my memory! This is also an excuse to post the pictures I’ve gathered together. This melodramatic pre-Code directed by the little-known Hobart Henley is no masterpiece, putting it mildly. Based on Booth Tarkington’s novel The Flirt, it is very static and soapy, with awkward, stilted dialogue, and has dated far more than many other films from the same era – but it’s interesting mainly because of its cast.
It was Bette Davis’ first film and also stars Humphrey Bogart – both are cast completely against what later became their types, with Davis as the “good” and dowdy sister, Laura, and Bogart as a smooth and charming young conman, Valentine. Looking at him in this you can glimpse why one early review of a stage performance said he was “as handsome as Valentino”. Zasu Pitts, star of silent classic Greed, also features as the family maid, Minnie, an added bonus – while Bert Roach, who plays a kindly, bumbling character in another silent classic, King Vidor’s The Crowd, is similarly kind and bumbling here.
However, the main star is Sidney Fox, who, like Davis, was in her debut role, playing “bad sister” Marianne Madison. Fox sadly had a tragic life, died young and is now all but forgotten, but in this she has a brief chance to sparkle. Her character is not so much “bad” as spoilt, as she twists various men round her little finger, including rich but shy Wade Trumbull (Roach) and noble Dr Dick Lindley (Conrad Nagel), who both want to marry her, and her doting dad (Charles Winninger).
As everyone runs around after Marianne, nobody notices that Laura is pining away with silent love for Dick. Davis is pretty good as the quiet, repressed Laura, though I’d love to see what she would have made of Marianne.
Anyway, as for the plot… predictable disaster ensues when Marianne falls for a stranger in their small town, Val Corliss (Bogart), who has a fancy car. He isn’t so much interested in her as he is in getting her dad’s endorsement for a dodgy get-rich-quick scheme. Bogart doesn’t have all that much to do in this apart from looking handsome, but he appeared with Fox again in another 1930s melodrama, Midnight (1934), which I hope to see soon.
Despite all the famous names in this cast, many scenes are stolen by a youngster, David Durand, who plays the two girls’ younger brother, Hedrick. He is over-the-top and annoying in just the way that many kids are in real life, and gets far more screen time than he really should in terms of the plot!
This film only seems to be available on a French DVD with forced subtitles, but I saw it at a well-known website. If you want to read more about it, check out the review at She Blogged by Night.