Frisco Jenny (1932)

Ruth Chatterton and James Murray

For a director with a macho reputation, William Wellman made a lot of movies featuring strong female characters. Admittedly, it wasn’t always his choice to make these films – for instance, I have read that Wings was originally supposed to be an all, or mainly, male film before the studio told him to cast Clara Bow, who ended up getting top billing. According to the TCM account of the making of Frisco Jenny, Warner producer Darryl Zanuck ordered Wellman to make this movie and also cast Ruth Chatterton in the lead – originally Wellman was none too thrilled at this and the director and star weren’t even on speaking terms.

However, just as Wellman worked so well with Bow in Wings, the same thing happened with Chatterton, and in the end they got on very well and went on to work together again.  Frisco Jenny is one of the six early Wellman films included in the great  Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three box set, and I found it very enjoyable to watch – at times rather like a female version of the male gangster films of the era, as Jenny wears a succession of flamboyant outfits and rises to the top of the Barbary Coast underworld.

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Picture Snatcher (1933)

It might be included in the Warner Gangsters Collection 3 box set – but the James Cagney movie Picture Snatcher, directed by Lloyd Bacon, is really only a gangster movie in the loosest sense. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if there are any true gangster movies in this collection, since none of those I’ve seen so far really fit the bill. Not that I’m complaining, as they are all fascinating to watch anyway.  

This film is a very slight offering and I don’t have all that much to say about it, but, as I’d eventually like to write at least something on this blog about all of Cagney’s movies, here are a few thoughts on this one.   


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