Monday, December 31, 2012

Kay Gives Her Heart - And More


Give Me Your Heart (1936) begins with a parting - Belinda Warren (Kay Francis) and Robert Melford (Patric Knowles) have been having an affair, and it is about to end.  He is married; his wife Rosamund (Frieda Inescort) is an invalid, but he still loves her and cannot leave her. So Belinda and he part; she finds herself alone upon the death of her father - until she has the son that she and Robert conceived.  Belinda is approached by Robert's father, Lord Farrington, who asks if he may raise the child as his son's heir.  The boy will be loved and happy, and will want for nothing.  Reluctantly, Belinda agrees; finally fleeing to the U.S., where she meets Jim Baker (George Brent).  They marry, but Jim cannot understand why his wife is always unhappy. 

This is a soaper, certainly, but it's a lovely film with some great supporting performances.  Henry Stephenson is wonderful as Lord Farrington. He really is the person you would be willing to give your child to.  His affection for Belinda is apparent, and we realize that this feeling is mutual.  Also great is Roland Young as "Tubby", Belinda's dear friend, and friend to Lord Farringon.  "Tubby" functions almost as a Deus ex Machina, descending on Belinda's life to help make the changes that will make things better.  Young plays him with humor, but with a serious concern for this woman who is obviously in so much pain. And Frieda Inescort has one excellent scene towards the end of the film.

Since I'm a fan of women doctors in the movies, it was fun to see that Belinda's doctor is a woman - Dr. Florence Cudahy played by Helen Flint. A good friend to Belinda, she is also a good doctor, refusing to give the insomniac Belinda sleeping pills. Florence prefers instead to try to find the root of Belinda's pain.

As always, any Kay Francis is a pleasure. However, next time we'll be visiting another 30s actress.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Spot Kay

If any one movie pushed the Production Code into existance, Mandalay from 1934 must be in the running.  Kay plays a Russian refugee, Tanya, who is deeply in love with (and living with) Tony Evans (Ricardo Cortez), a ne'er-do-well, who has the choice of losing his boat or Tanya, to Nick (Warner Oland).  He chooses the boat, handing Tanya over to Nick to work in his club as a prostitute.  Tanya takes on the name "Spot White", and begins to amass jewels and power as she apparently blackmails her clients for her silence.  Finally, she blackmails herself out of Rangoon, and on to a boat bound for Mandalay, where she meets Dr. Gregory Burton (Lyle Talbot).  He is on his way to the plague areas in Mandalay, his penance for his alcoholism.

If that isn't enough to convince you that this is a racy movie, let's throw in some implied nudity and murder as well.  This film has something for everyone!  Kay is great (in spite of having to say a lot of "R's" (as was pointed out by Robert Osborne in the introduction). As she did in The House on 56th Street, she makes the transition from innocence to hard reality beautifully.  And Ricardo Cortez is wonderful as the ever slimy Tony. Finally, we have Lyle Talbot playing Gregory as a tortured soul, whose drunkenness masks his inner pain, but who has the good sense to fall in love with Tanya.  Talbot makes a good counterpoint to Cortez in this film.  Neither is exactly the man of your dreams, but Gregory, at least has a conscience.
Lots of beautiful clothing by Orry-Kelly. And lots to titillate as well.  Watch for the scene when Kay goes after Reginald Owen (as a Police Captain of her acquaintance).  You'll love it. Here's an early scene to get you in the mood:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Peeping Kay

We return to visit our friend, Kay Francis in this wonderful little pre-code from 1933, The Keyhole.  Kay is a former dancer, Anne Brooks.  Now married to Schuyler Brooks (Henry Kolker), Anne is being blackmailed by her former dancing partner – and husband, Maurice (Monroe Owsley).  Maurice led Anne to believe they were divorced. Now that she is married to a wealthy, older man, he’s decided that she can be his meal ticket and provide him with a lifetime annuity.  Anne, of course, is having none of it.  She discusses the situation with her sister-in-law, who suggests heading to Havana, where Portia Brooks (Helen Ware) feels that she can use her pull to prevent Maurice (who is not American) from reentering the country. In the meantime, Schuyler has decided to have his wife followed by a private detective Neil Davis (George Brent), in the hopes of catching her at some indiscretion.

Monroe Owsley
This is a titillating little piece of pre-code fluff.  It’s wonderful to see George Brent in a somewhat questionable role – he is rather a gigolo; paid by his employers to sleep with their wives, in an attempt to get evidence against them. He still manages to make you like him.  And Kay is adorable as Anne.  She really is a good person; she is determined to be true to her husband, even though he doesn’t deserve it (even Portia is disgusted with him!). But she can't resist flirting with Neil. He's much to attractive to ignore.   We also get a shipboard romance, entwined with Anne attempting to outwit the slimy Maurice (Monroe Owsley is good at slimy). And Neil, totally confused by Anne's resistance to his charms.  

Here's the scene in which Maurice connives his way back into Anne's life:


What makes this a tad racy, of course, is knowing that Anne is not married to Schuyler, and watching her and her sister-in-law connive to keep the “marriage” together by getting rid of the legal husband.  There is also a little something at the ending which makes this a more dubious film for the post-code era, but we won't go into that here.

Next time, more Kay Francis.