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Min owns the waterfront hotel where Bill, the captain of a fishing boat, lives. Also living and working in the hotel is Nancy, whom Min took in some years ago as an abandoned girl. Now that Nancy is older, the truant officer and the police think that she should be moved to a different environment, and Min is torn between her attachment to Nancy and her concern that the waterfront may not be the best place for a young woman. Matters are brought to a head by the sudden re-appearance of Belle, Nancy's disreputable mother. Written by
Marie Dressler picked up the Best Actress Oscar for her performance here as Min, a waterfront rat who was given a small baby after its mother decided to run off. Min raised the kid to a young woman (Dorothy Jordan) along with the help of her friend Bill (Wallace Beery) but she is pretty much forced to throw her out to get her away from the trashy life on the waterfront. Then, Min must do even more when the girl's drunken mother shows back up. The actual screenplay here, by Frances Marion, is pretty standard for the era as it really doesn't try to do too much but there are some excellent performances that make the film worth viewing. I've been rather hit and miss on my opinions of Dressler but there's no question that this film belongs to her and it's without question the best work I've seen from here. I guess this was a real coming out after apparently considering suicide only a few years earlier when she made her comeback in THE PATSY, which eventually led to more roles and then this one, which got her the Oscar. Again, her look is just right for the film but I was amazed at how much heart and soul she pumped into her character and the film. This is a pretty dark little movie that doesn't take any comic turns or center on fake moments. The characters are shown as being ugly and trashy and it doesn't try to make them look good at any point. The film and Dressler's performance also makes it clear that ugly people can have good hearts, which I believe is the real point of the film. I was surprised that the film took a few of the twists that it did but then again, we're dealing with a pre-code era where happy situations weren't always forced on movies. Beery is also very good in his supporting role as his always plays the idiot well. I was also impressed with Jordan in her role and Marjorie Rambeau is fine as the drunken mother. Again, the screenplay is pretty straight forward and simple and it was clearly written to fit Dressler and Beery but the two take it, run with it and in the end deliver a nice little gem.
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