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:

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