Friday, February 28, 2014

Joan and Her Roommates

Our Blushing Brides (1930) introduces us to three roommates and colleagues in a local department store: Jerry March (Joan Crawford), a no-nonsense young woman, focused on her career, who doesn't have a whole lot of regard for men; Franky Daniels (Dorothy Sebastian), a lazy person, looking for a husband - any husband; and Connie Blair (Anita Page), a fairly naive girl who is deeply in love with the boss (David Jardine, played by Raymond Hackett), and who sees him as her ticket to a life of ease and happiness.

After a date with Marty Sanderson (John Miljan), Franky, in a drunken stupor, elopes with him.  It doesn't hurt that he appears to be quite wealthy.  Then, Connie moves into an apartment that David has rented for her - without benefit of marriage.  But Connie is sure they will wed, as soon as David convinces his father of their deep love.  Jerry meets Tony Jardine (Robert Montgomery), David's older brother, who woos her.  But when she realizes he is interested only in a quick visit to his bachelor pad treehouse (yes, you read that right - a treehouse), she walks out.

We were really impressed by the art design in this film.  The settings are attractive, but appropriate to each economic level.  The apartment Jerry shares with Connie and Franky is slightly more upscale than the one she ends up in when she is alone, and appropriately so.  But the designers still make the apartments places that young women would live, not just sets.  The one exception to this was Tony's treehouse - it is just much too large on the inside to fit the dimensions outside.  Perhaps Tony knows how to cast an Undetectable Extension Charm (a la Harry Potter). 

Jerry works in the store not only as a model, but as a salesperson.  One of our group recalled that her mother told her of a store practice in which salespeople did try on clothing for their preferred customers.  We felt that the film gave us a little insight into the business world of the 1930s.  The emphasis on  clothing in the film also provides a display of some lovely dresses of the period (all far more expensive than the average woman would be able to afford), but the fashion shows finally got a bit over the top.  In the last one,  it looked like they were channeling Busby Berkeley.

As always, Robert Montgomery is a pleasure to watch.  He makes Tony attractive, though he is not afraid to show him as a bit of a cad.  But he also allows us to see Tony grow as a person.   We found the male characters in general to be interesting. They run the gamut from coward to thief to someone who grows into a good guy. 

We were very impressed both with Joan Crawford, as well as with her character.   Jerry is a good person, very devoted and loyal to her friends. When she sees David in a movie theatre with his fiance, Evelyn Woodforth (Martha Sleeper), Jerry goes to Connie to be a support, but cannot bring herself to tell her of what she witnessed.  The beauty of this section is Crawford's reactions.  Without speaking a word, we see all the emotions running through her head - Crawford's silent film training is evident.  Jerry's loyalty to her friends is also admirable because of the obvious differences between her, Connie and Franky.  Quite honestly, Jerry is a lot smarter and more ambitious than either of them - Connie, especially comes across as a complete dolt.  Yet, Jerry sticks with them, even when their stupidity has gotten both of them into untenable situations.
We have a wealth of interesting performances here.  Hedda Hopper is back for a brief bit as Mrs. Weaver, a woman who is quite unpleasant.  We also have Edward Brophy as Joe Munsey for some  comic relief.  Brophy's long career extended from 1920 until 1961.  He died in 1960, at age 65, during production of his final film, Two Road Together. Anita Page also had an interesting career.  She appeared in many films from 1925 until 1936.  Then, after a long break, she appeared in a few more movies, first in 1961, then again in 1996.  She died in 2008, at age 98; her final film was released in 2010.  Dorothy Sebastian acted until 1948, dying in 1957 (age 53) after a long bout with cancer.

Interestingly, Crawford and Paige had already starred in the silent films Our Dancing Daughters (1928) and Our Modern Maidens (1929), MGM's "jazz age" trilogy (. Sebastian joined them in Our Modern Maidens.  This TCM article gives a bit more detail on the film and the trilogy.

The opening scene immediately places us into the world of the film, and introduces us to our heroines and their various personalities.  We see the girls clocking into work and listen to their discussions of their jobs and men.  Though the final scene in the film is a bit jarring in its abruptness, all in all, this is a well-paced film. We should mention, however, that the title is more ironic than a reflection of the story.

Before we go, here is an introduction to Jerry and Tony: