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Clara Bow stars in this early talkie about two sisters (Jean Arthur)
who work in a department store and vie for the same guy (James Hall).
While Bow plays a fast girl who's always getting into trouble at work for being late, Arthur is actually the sneak and compulsive gambler (with store funds). She also has a yen for Bow's Boyfriend, Hall. That's about it for plot.
Charles Sellon plays the crooked gambler. Jean Harlow has a few lines as the friend and one scene with Bow and Arthur. Harlow and Hall would star in Hell's Angels a few years after this. Edna May Oliver in her talkie debut plays the head of personnel, and Frank Ross plays Ken. Ross would marry Arthur and become a film producer. And that's Bess Flowers trying out the reducing machine.
Worth a look for feisty Clara Bow and Jean Arthur in an odd role.
In THE SATURDAY NIGHT KID, Clara Bow plays Mayme, a salesgirl who's in love
with a fellow clerk named Bill (James Hall). Her sister Janie (Jean
also has eyes for him and schemes to snare for herself. The scenario is
ordinary and the resolution is both banal and predictable. Clara Bow's
performance in her third talkie is good, proving she could easily handle
sound. Unfortunately, her role is, for the most part, colorless and
inhibited. Mayme lacks the free-spiritedness and boldness of such roles
Alverna in MANTRAP and Betty Lou in IT; she's just a blandly virtuous
heroine searching for true love. It doesn't help that her leading man Hall
is uncharismatic and dull.
Occasionally, however, Bow gets to shine. She displays her comedic flair in some funny sequences, particularly a scene where she tries to help the inexperienced Hall in a difficult task without making him look incompetent. Bow also exhibits a flash of her effervescent "It" persona in a flirtatious chasing sequence. And in her big dramatic moments, Clara is persuasive and invigorating, making one regret she rarely had the opportunity for substantial dramatic material.
Jean Arthur is delightfully perfidious as Janie. Among the supporting players, Edna May Oliver as Mayme's snooty, imperious supervisor Miss Streeter and Charles Sellon as Lem Woodruff, the fumbling proprietor of the boardinghouse Mayme, Janie, and Bill live in, stand out. In an early film appearance, Jean Harlow has too minute a role to create any impression.
Overall, THE SATURDAY NIGHT KID is a pedestrian movie that doesn't take full advantage of Bow's talents. Considering that many of Clara Bow's films are lost or deteriorating, however, one should be grateful that this film has been recently restored.
After audiences of the 1920s had become accustomed to seeing Clara Bow portraying the carefree flapper or an aggressive woman out to get her man, this movie strays from those formulas. Confined by the limitations of the role of Mayme and the constraints of early sound films, Clara is much more inhibited and restrained in this film. That high energy personality and wonderful facial expressions that I love about her, were absent in this movie. As another reviewer stated, Clara would have been much more suited to play the role of Janie(particularly the scene where Janie steals Mayme's boyfriend) that went to a young Jean Arthur. Even when, she was several pounds overweight for a leading lady/sex symbol, Clara still manages too look great and she does well in the somewhat thankless role. Mayme is a "good" girl that has developed a cynical and hard boiled attitude from past romances gone bad. It was also interesting to see Jean Arthur play a selfish, impulsive, immature Janie(who doesn't hesitate to stab her sister in the back if her neck is on the line) after seeing her in more virtuous roles in the 30s and she turns in a good performance despite just an average script and dialogue. The Saturday Night Kid also provides an interesting glimpse into the late 20s lifestyle from riding a street car to working in a department store. Yes, 75 years ago they were doing company "pep rallies" that employees had to attend and show their enthusiasm whether they were enthused to be there or not. There are very few films that were made in 1929 with outstanding productions values and are enjoyable to watch. While this film has it's problems I think it is better than most of the early sound films that I've seen, including THE WILD PARTY with Clara. 6/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even though "Love 'em and Leave 'em" had been a Louise Brooks vehicle
in 1926, that didn't stop Paramount from lifting the plot and
refashioning it into "The Saturday Night Kid" for Clara Bow in 1929. As
Clara often said she was given "any old story that was fished out of a
rubbish bin"!!! To add personal insult to injury, Edward Sutherland was
assigned to direct it. Louise Brooks, who was married to Sutherland,
wrote that Sutherland always excluded Bow from parties and gatherings -
he didn't think Bow was of their "class" - even though Brooks begged
him to invite Clara.
Mayme (Clara Bow) and Janie (Jean Arthur) are sisters - they both work at Ginsbergs' Department Store - but while Mayme is in love with dependable Bill (James Hall), Janie is on the look out for money. "Poor kid, she doesn't know what it's all about" worries Mayme, then when they see her driving past in a flashy car Bill quips "I'd hate to see her when she wises up"!! From the first scene Janie shows she is not to be trusted - borrowing Mayme's "step ins" and perfume - she is also not above betting heavily on the races. Jean Arthur steals the movie "on a red hot platter". Her's is the only role with any get up and go and her husky voice is very pleasing.
Janie does her best to drive a wedge between the cute couple and at a rooftop party, Mayme gets fed up - "I'm just a Saturday Night Kid, the love 'em and leave 'em kind" - I thought now for some Clara Bow action, but it was not to be. She was the good girl, the nice sister and as such had to hang around while her "bad" sister got all the attention. Janie gets deeper and deeper into debt and gambles with the store's welfare fund (she is the treasurer). She confesses what she has done to Mayme, who wins back the money in a crap game. Janie, though, has already told Mrs. Streeter (the glorious Edna May Oliver) that Mayme is the thief and when Mayme turns up with the money she (Mayme) is sacked. All ends well for Mayme and Bill - he overhears the girls talking and realises Janie is the sneak - not that he ever doubted Mayme's honesty.
True to Clara's generous spirit - there was one actress, a bit player, whose confidence was really boosted - that was Jean Harlow. Bow, as always, took the newcomer under her wing. There was a beautiful evening dress that was designed for Clara but she insisted that Jean wear the dress. Not only that but Clara also insisted that they both have photographs taken together - that apparently was simply not done - stars just didn't pose with beautiful bit players!!! Not Clara, who said "She's a good kid, I just want to help her out!!!
Shopgirl sisters, one fun loving but virtuous (Clara Bow), the other a conniving, selfish brat (Jean Arthur) are in love with a fellow Ginsberg department store employee (James Hall). Trite screenplay, lousy production values, terrible directing. Bow only really becomes interesting in the second half where she's finally given interesting things to do. Jean Arthur is quite good as the dissembling brat sister. James Hall is dull. Edna May Oliver does her thing (which I love) in her talkie debut, and an unbilled (and very young looking) Jean Harlow has a tiny but memorable speaking part (her first). Ultimately, this is for Bow fanatics only (I raise my hand), and for those who want to see the earliest sound film appearance of the fully formed Jean Harlow persona.
Most of the plot revolves around a New York City department store -
"Ginsberg's" - that like so many department stores up until the middle
of the 20th century were run by the actual founder of the same name.
There is an actual Mr. Ginsberg in the cast. It reminds me a little of
"It's a Great Life" made the same year, although the sisters working at
Ginsberg's here are hardly the Duncan sisters as far as teamwork and
sister love. It does gives you a feel for what a dictatorship these big
dynastic department stores were at that time. They apparently paid
people a living wage, but a living wage was considered enough to make
it sharing a room in a cheap boarding house, as sisters Mayme Barry
(Clara Bow) and Janie Barry (Jean Arthur) are doing here.
The gist of the story is that Mayme and Janie are clerks at Ginsberg's. Mayme is called "The Saturday Night Kid" because she hardly ever misses going out on a Saturday night - until she meets fellow clerk William Taylor (James Hall). Mayme's personality is defined by loyalty and sensitivity when hurt by those she cares about, although she puts on a hard shell to pretend nothing hurts her. Jean Arthur, as sister Janie is the sneak. She's weak and selfish, and is capable of being a weasel and a liar to get out of a bad situation. She feels bad about it later, she just has no spine or character.
Now Mayme has fallen hard for Bill, but after he becomes a floorwalker - a big promotion in those days - he gets snooty with her and hurts her badly. She breaks up with him. Sister Janie has always had a crush on Bill, and although she doesn't outright try and steal him from Mayme, she tells some lies to make herself look good at Mayme's expense, to the point of getting Mayme possibly sent to jail! What do I mean by this and how does all of this work out? Watch and find out.
My favorite scene - Mayme is having the gang from work over to her apartment and they have a kind of dining room situation on the roof outside their window with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. The way the conversation flows between characters is quite mature considering this is the first full year of talking pictures.
One more thing, even though to me it was a tie as to whether Clara Bow or Jean Arthur owned this picture - Clara with her wise flapper persona and Jean with this whiny unlikeable character she plays that makes you scratch your head when you think about all of the wise likable parts that were to come, Edna May Oliver sure takes the cake with an early performance as a supervisor at Ginsberg's in this, only her first sound performance. You can really see the comic potential there, and apparently so could RKO, because they snapped her up immediately afterward.
Clara Bow and Jean Arthur both started starring in movies around 1924.
Bow was 19 and Arthur was 24. In 1927, Bow reached super-stardom as the
"It" girl in "It" and playing in first Academy Award Winning movie
"Wings." So, now two years later you have superstar Bow, age 24 and
star Arthur age 29 playing sisters.
Oddly, Arthur seems to be playing the younger sister. In the opening scene, Bow brazenly pulls up Arthur's dress and reveals Arthur's underwear for the camera. She accuses her sister of stealing her "step-ins". It establishes Clara as the dominant personality.
Later, there's a wonderful scene where both are in their underwear about to go to bed. Arthur has just stolen Bow's boyfriend. Bow prays, while Arthur hops into bed. She moans innocently, "I can't help it if he like me more than you." Bow snaps back, "Shut up, I'm saying my prayers." Bow is strong and gives a great performance, but its Arthur with a thin, almost squeaky, voice who steals every scene.
The movie moves briskly with nice scenes in a department store, on the street and on an apartment porch beneath what could be the Brooklyn Bridge.
Nice comic support is given by Edna Mae Oliver who plays a store manager putting on a pageant for Goldberg's, the store where the sisters work. In the play that she puts on, she casts Arthur as virtue and Bow as pleasure to show the triumph of virtue over pleasure. This is ironic as in the movie, they are playing the opposite roles.
Charles Sellon, the unforgettable Mr. Muckle in W.C. Fields "Its a Gift," also gives a great performance. He's gambler-neighbor who cons Arthur to give him money by reassuring her, "With me its not a gamble, but an investment." Bow would go on to make eight more films over the next four years and then quit movies forever in 1933 at the age of 28. On the other hand, Jean Arthur continued starring for twenty more years in classics like "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington".
Some people will be disappointed because the film is pretty light weight. It is barely over an hour and basically climaxes just when it is getting most interesting. Still, watching Bow at the top of her game and Arthur rising to match her is delightful.
Boarding house sisters Clara Bow (as Mayme Barry) and Jean Arthur (as
Janie Barry) both work as salesgirls in "Ginsberg's Department Store".
Ms. Bow is in love with dashing James Hall (as William "Bill" Taylor).
Conveniently, Mr. Hall rooms at the same boarding house, and also works
at "Ginsberg's". Her friends think Bow may give up her reputation as
"The Saturday Night Kid", and marry Hall. But, Ms. Arthur has other
plans; Bow's sneaky little sister "borrows" her underwear, perfume,
money - and, finally, her man.
This sound re-make of "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" puts Bow in the successful department store setting of "It". The locale, and situations, really don't work; but, the makeshift terrace party area looks great. Bow is fine as "Mayme", but she might have been better than Arthur as "Janie". Arthur's character is so transparent, and annoying, it's difficult to understand her extraordinary ability to deceive; and, this version of the play leaves her character "unresolved". Edna May Oliver (as Miss Streeter) makes an impressive sound debut, and Jean Harlow has a small role.
**** The Saturday Night Kid (10/25/29) A. Edward Sutherland ~ Clara Bow, Jean Arthur, James Hall
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