'Beware of Blondes' is a very early example of the caper film, but it can't quite seem to make up its mind whether it's a comedy or a drama. Several of Raymond Griffith's films feature a necklace or some other valuable piece of jewellery as a McGuffin: 'Beware of Blondes' feels like a Raymond Griffith comedy with all the comedy left out.
Matt Moore, playing a more cerebral character than usual, is Jeff Blake, a hot-shot employee of a big jewellery firm in New York. His boss Costigan appoints Jeff to serve as courier, booking him passage aboard an ocean liner to bring a valuable emerald to a buyer in Europe. (A title card tells us that the emerald is worth $444,444 ... is this meant to be funny?) Costigan has received a tip that the notorious female jewel-thief Blonde Mary will be aboard the same ship, planning to steal the emerald. 'Beware of blondes', Costigan warns his protégé.
Of course, when Jeff gets on the ship, it's loaded to the gunwales with attractive young blondes. He has the emerald hidden in a cigar lighter, and he also has a worthless decoy copy of the emerald, made of paste. Jeff is so clever, maybe he'll hide the fake emerald in the lighter and keep the real emerald out in the open, expecting the thief to assume that the real gem is the fake.
This movie is a trifle too pleased with its own cleverness. Which of the numerous shipboard blondes is genuinely interested in Jeff, and which is plotting to steal the stone? Nothing here is what it seems, and we're too busy getting our bearings to notice that the plot doesn't make much sense. Typical of the ineptitude here: according to this silent film's intertitles, the ocean liner is going to some place called 'Europe' ... not Southampton nor Le Havre, but just 'Europe'.
SPOILERS COMING. During the voyage, Jeff strikes up a friendship with an attractive young lady who's a brunette ... so she must be safe, then. But she studies his reaction when she says that the ocean is as green as an emerald. She is, of course, Blonde Mary in disguise.
Matt Moore gives a better performance than usual, but it's wasted in this dumb movie. There's some amusing camera work when Jeff first boards the ship, and the camera follows one blonde after another, to convey that the ship is packed with fair-haired ladies. But this clever business is too little, too late and too seldom. I'll rate 'Beware of Blondes' one point out of 10.
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