Monday, August 6, 2012

Kay's House was a Home?

The House on 56th Street (1933) is a fascinating film.  In it, Kay Francis is showgirl Peggy Martin, who has two men very interested in her: Monte Van Tyle (Gene Raymond), the scion of a wealthy family, and Lindon Fiske (John Halliday), who has been involved with Peggy for some time.  Peggy falls in love with Monte; Since Lindon is quite clear that he is "not the marrying kind", it is an easy choice for Peggy.  So, despite Monte's mother's objections, the couple wed and are quickly blessed with a daughter.  Years go by, with Peggy and Monte living happily - even Mama Van Tyle (Nella Walker) has gotten used to her daughter-in-law.  Then, at a party, Peggy meets Lindon again.  She is concerned at his appearance, as Monte knows nothing about him.  Add to this, Lindon does not look well.  Kay is concerned, and her concern is her downfall in this drama.

Rather than give too much away, we'll stop with the plot there, even though it forbids us doing more than mention two important characters: Bill Blaine (Ricardo Cortez) and Eleanor (Margaret Lindsay).  The two are pivotal to the plot, and are wonderful.  Both show up in the latter half of the film.  To say more would be to ruin this wonderful picture for you.
Kay Francis has to age over 20 years in this film.  The motif that the director, Robert Flory, uses to demonstrate the passage of time is subtle but effective - we see Peggy playing solitare, as newspapers flash up important events of the day.  

The film is also interesting in that it discusses with some seriousness the problems of compulsive gambling.  In  1949 Barbara Stanwyck would powerfully portray a woman with a severe gambling problem.  This precursor to The Lady Gambles is no less impressive, as it discusses an issue few other films were willing to examine.

When you get to the end of this film, you will understand WHY the code began to be an issue.  We suggest you give it a try.

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