Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Joan B and her Two Sisters

We returned from the Christmas holiday week to discuss Three Girls About Town (1941), which stars Joan Blondell as Hope Banner and Binnie Barnes as sister Faith.  The girls work as hostesses in a convention hotel, and are pooling their funds to get their younger sister Charity (Janet Blair) through private school.  Of course, complications arise - first, Charity runs away from school and decides that Hope's boyfriend, reporter Tommy Hopkins (John Howard) is just perfect for her.  Then, to top it all off, the girls discover a corpse in one of the hotel rooms, and decide the best way to avoid a scandal at the hotel (and lose the business of a convention of morticians) is to get the body out of the hotel without anyone's knowledge.  A task that is much easier said than done.

The film has the feeling of the The Marx Brothers meet Weekend at Bernie's, with the dead body being toted all over the hotel, and passed off as a very tired man.  Though the plot is rather strained (you KNOW the body is going to end up in one of the morticians' display caskets), it has some amusing moments - a scene in which John Howard and our dead friend sit in on a poker game, and our "lucky stiff" (yes, that's what they said), keeps winning poker hands is actually very funny. Naturally, as long as he is winning, Tommy and friend can't leave; and try as he might to lose, Tommy just can't get the wrong cards.

Another amusing bit has Hope trying to rid herself of a persistent drunk, who is singing in the hallway outside the dead man's room.  To shoo him away, Hope tells him that there is "a singer is in the next room - Dick Powell".  Joan Blondell was married to Powell at this point, so the "in" joke would have been very obvious for the audience.  (The Blondell-Powell union lasted until 1945, when Powell left after falling in love with June Allyson).

Another bit of trivia - our trio of actresses were not originally considered for the parts of the Banner sisters:  the studio first wanted Constance Bennett, Joan Bennett and Virginia Bruce.  While it would have been amusing to see the Bennett sisters together, Virginia Bruce, who was already 30, would have been far too old (lovely as she was) to pass for the approximately 17 year old Charity.  Janet Blair, who was just 20 when the film was released, was far closer to Charity's age.  Blair certainly looks older than 17 in this, but Charity is purposely dressing up to look older.  It does work better to try to make Blair look older than it would have done to make Bruce look like a kid playing dress-up.  And while our heroines, Hope and Faith are accused by the local woman's group of being indecent, it's Charity who is actually a bit of slut.  One looks forward to Charity getting her comeuppance - she is truly an unethical brat.

Also seen in bit parts are Charles Lane as an undertaker, Una O'Connell as a scrubwoman, and a VERY young Lloyd Bridges (blink and you'll miss him) as a reporter.  We especially enjoyed seeing Bridges appear - he's quite handsome, and while you only get a glimpse of him, his voice is distinctive.

The film was directed by Leigh Jason.  We were familiar with one of his films - Dangerous Blondes, which we discussed in September, and we hope to be looking at some of his films with Barbara Stanwyck (The Mad Miss Manton and The Bride Walks Out) in the future.  Jason had a lengthy career, which extended from the silent era to 50's television.  He appears to have finally retired in 1961; he died in 1979, at age 74.

We'll return next week with a film with a more historical focus. We hope you will join us then.


  1. Sounds like I'll hoot. I'll be on the lookout.

    1. It's NOT great literature, but it has some amusing moments.


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