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|Index||11 reviews in total|
It's no great classic. Assembly line Hollywood stuff, about the same quality as Erin Brockovich, circa 1931. But it's worth watching, especially if you're already into pre-code-era stuff, or if you're interested in feminist themes in cinema, or if you're awake at 3 AM and it's on cable. An honest and accurate film, it gets the male-female dynamic just about right, for 1931, 2002, or whenever. Loretta Young was casual and charming and perfect for the role. 6.5/10, rounded down to 6/10.
... and especially for a Warner Brothers precode. The theme of the
story is pretty familiar - boy (Frank Albertson) and girl (Loretta
Young) are tight in college but get separated by more than physical
distance after graduation, despite their best intentions. Meanwhile, in
each case, more worldly people of the opposite sex (Ricardo Cortez and
Dorothy Christy) move in and wreak havoc on the relationship, helped
along by a generous helping of pride on the part of both boy and girl.
As expected Loretta is lovely, Ricardo is a rat, and that saucy tart Joan Blondell makes the last 10 minutes worth the wait. I know she didn't write those lines, but only she could deliver them so memorably. Best precode scene (non-Blondell that is) - Loretta Young being surprised by boyfriend Johnny's return from Paris while running around her apartment in her underwear. They carry on a casual conversation - she's still in her underwear - as she puts on her makeup and he buffs her bare back with a powder puff. Only in the precode era! The final scene with Blondell is somewhat annoying for reasons that the director could not have been aware of without a crystal ball. As a nervous Frank Albertson talks to card-carrying correspondent (as in divorce) Joan Blondell, the camera spends much of its time focused on Frank Albertson even when Joan is talking. Hard to believe, but for the brief sliver of time in which this film was made, Frank Albertson was a leading man and Joan Blondell was still only a supporting player, so at the time this cinematography actually made sense. Today, the whole thing is like having a billboard blocking a beautiful view.
I'd recommend this one for fans of precode and especially fans of Loretta Young, Ricardo Cortez, or Joan Blondell.
Big Business Girl (1931)
** (out of 4)
A smart and sexy college girl (Loretta Young) goes to the big city to make good money but once getting there she realizes it takes a nice pair of legs, more than brains, to get anywhere. The girl uses her legs to start moving up but when her boss starts coming onto her this doesn't make the husband very happy. Here's another pre-code dealing with (at the time) "women trying to be men". The story is pretty flat but Young and the cast manage to keep things going throughout. There are some nice pre-code elements at the start of the film including a college party where all the couples are in the backseats of their cars.
Once again, as so often in movies of the pre-Code era, here's a woman with brains, beauty and the drive to get ahead who loves a guy who has none of the above (including acting talent). Naturally, she props him up by getting him a big job without his knowing it (although this unpromising lead is dropped and doesn't become a plot complication). Throw in the lecherous boss she uses to make the boyfriend (actually her secret hubby) jealous, and the cliche is complete. That said, it's still what you do with the story that counts, and here nothing whatsoever is done with it! No clever dialogue, no revealing moments, no amusing supporting character players, no special qualities in the narrative timing, sets, camera or lighting. Nothing unexpected whatsoever. That is, nothing until Joan Blondell steps in at the very end as a brassy professional co-respondent. Her performance and the dialogue, as she and the husband play cards while they wait for the photographer to arrive, suddenly bring the film to life and give it a decent finish. Still, one of the weaker Warners of the period. WEEKEND MARRIAGE, a similar film made the following year, also with Loretta Young, is much more interesting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rank "Big Business Girl" right in there with "The Hucksters" and "A
Face in the Crowd" as inspirational material for "Mad Men".
What attracted me to search until I could see this movie on TCM were the best remembered stars Loretta Young and Joan Blondell, in addition to Ricardo Cortez, Oscar Apfel and Dorothy Christy. These were major Warner Bros contract players of the early 1930s. It is hard to believe in those Pre Code days without restrictions on minors playing adults on screen, at 17 Loretta Young is cast as a university graduate, deep in student loans, willing to do what it takes to get ahead in the New York City business world. There is even a skyscraper model that looks like the one in "Baby Face" from 1933.
Honestly, I was never a fan of Loretta Young after her movie career ended circa 1951. Good for her that she was a hit on TV, but not with me. However, as I started collecting Pre Code film, I was entranced by Loretta in "Employees' Entrance" filmed when she was 19.
Ricardo Cortez played "Sam Spade" in the 1931 version of "The Maltese Falcon" which ended production just weeks before "Big Business Girl" started production. Seeing him as the ad agency owner "Robert Clayton" he is a role model for "Roger Sterling" and "Don Draper" on "Mad Men".
That would make Loretta as "Claire 'Mac' McIntyre" a cross between "Peggy Olson" and "Megan Calvet" on "Mad Men".
The plot is that "Mac" is hired suddenly as secretary to "Clayton" who does not know she is secretly married to her university boyfriend "Johnny" who was in Paris with his band. Somehow "Mac" starts writing outstanding ad copy selling the autos made by "Walter Morley". "Clayton" promotes her to copywriter with her own office, as much for her legs and face as talent. "Clayton" is so infatuated with "Mac" he wants to marry her. Then "Johnny" returns to NYC. "Mac" sets him up was a radio star for the auto company. He is attracted to beautiful "Mrs. Emerson". After a night flight in heavy rain in a Ford Tri-Motor, "Mac" re-unites with "Johnny". Un resolved is the question of "Mac" remaining as copywriter for "Clayton" and "Johnny" as the auto company radio band leader. Of yes, Joan Blondell plays "Pearl" a professional "divorce co-respondent".
I enjoyed this film and all performances except Frank Albertson as "Johnny Saunders". If he could not appear romantically interested in Loretta Young then, he must have been half dead. Perhaps all the other male juveniles under WB contract were making other films then. A year later WB might have used Dick Powell or George Brent as "Johnny".
Still, "Big Business Girl" is only 75 minutes long and seems to run faster. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I enjoy it.
BIG BUSINESS GIRL (1931) is an unspectacular pre-Code talkie with a bit
of a racy edge. Eighteen-year-old Loretta Young plays a college grad
trying to make it in the business world. At her advertising company,
she is quickly promoted from a secretary, but finds out she's being
paid merely to "decorate the office". What she doesn't realize is that
her boss (Ricardo Cortez) is underpaying her by more than half what her
talents are worth, but this is not the main issue in the film. She
wants to climb the ladder and is willing to play the game if that's
what it takes. The sudden appearance of her long-distance boyfriend
(Frank Albertson) throws a monkey wrench in her plans and the movie
becomes a will-they-won't-they waiting game to see if the young couple
can work out their misunderstandings.
Fourth-billed Joan Blondell doesn't appear until the very end of the film, but she's fantastic as a professional correspondent in divorce set-ups. She plays cards in her negligée with nervous husbands as they await the private detectives. It's a living. Streetwise Blondell can handle herself and, as she says, with the type of husbands she works with it's safer than working in a beauty parlor. Blondell is a great comedienne and her scenes are easily the highlight of the film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
And that's the husband trying to keep his wife from sleeping with the
boss! Immature band leader Frank Albertson looses his wife Loretta
Young after a year's separation while he's off in Paris on a job and
she goes to work as an advertising assistant to lecherous Ricardo
Cortez. She overhears Cortez referring to her as "office furniture", so
she sets out to teach him a lesson by flirting with him at every chance
(by showing off an exposed leg) without intending to go through with
what he desires. It works, and she rises to the top of the agency,
which causes problems in her marriage when Albertson returns. Cortez, a
good-hearted rogue at heart, sets up a show-down involving a
professional "other woman" (Joan Blondel) who makes a living playing
cards with men waiting to be caught by their wives.
There are a lot of delicious pre-code innuendos in this entertaining but predictable marital drama, with Blondell standing out in her small role (which comes towards the end) and the future "Attila the Nun" Young showing a naughty side that would be totally absent in her later post-code era films. Cortez is fine, but Albertson seems like a college kid trying to mingle with adults and just not fitting.
Pretty college graduate Loretta Young (as Claire "Mac" McIntyre) tells
musician boyfriend Frank Albertson (as John "Johnny" Saunders) she's
going to chisel out a "Big Business Girl" career in New York while his
dance band plays a Paris date. Although Mr. Albertson begs her to go,
Ms. Young needs to pay off college loans. She is hired as a secretary
to advertising executive Ricardo Cortez (as Robert "RJ" Clayton). Young
is ambitious, intelligent, powdered and leggy. She also has a secret...
After being referred to as "office decoration," Young hikes up her skirt and swings her legs around the boss' face. This understandably arouses Mr. Cortez. Young is promoted. Albertson returns from Paris. Romantic misunderstandings ensue. For her "lingerie scene" Young wears a clingy, low-cut slip which shows off her thin figure to great effect. At the subsequent party, flies crawl around her back and down her dress. Also watch for brassy Joan Blondell (as Pearl) to liven up the last act.
***** Big Business Girl (6/12/31) William A Seiter ~ Loretta Young, Frank Albertson, Ricardo Cortez, Joan Blondell
It's funny, but for a movie made back in 'the good old days', it's
amazingly sleazy--filled with sexual innuendo from start to finish.
When the film begins, you learn that Claire (Loretta Young) and Johnny
(Frank Albertson) have been 'playing house' (an old euphemism for
living together). Now that they are finishing up in college, he has a
job offer to take the band to Paris and she wants to stay home and be a
career girl. At first, it's tough going for Claire--after all, it's the
Depression and jobs are scarce. Eventually, however, she gets a job as
a secretary and does quite well. In fact, she's soon made an executive
at the advertising agency--partly because of talent and partly because
her boss, Mr. Clayton (Ricardo Cortez) thinks she has nice legs! Once
in this high-paying position, Claire seems to spend most of her time
avoiding going to bed with Clayton--as Clayton is the ultimate horn-dog
and CONSTANTLY sexually harasses her.
Johnny arrives home early from Paris and is shocked to see his girl is a business woman. However, they both get off on the wrong foot and soon they are arguing about pretty much everything. Clayton uses this as an excuse to butt in--and he really starts putting a lot of pressure on Claire to either sleep with him or marry him (quite the romantic, isn't he?!). What's next? See it and find out for yourself.
It's interesting that although the film is jam-packed with sexuality, nice girl Claire manages to remain rather pure (other than living with Johnny when the film began). In other words, it's a case of the old expression 'all tease, no please'--as the film seems pretty dirty but nothing especially ever happens. There are lots of folks who think adultery is a new national sport and the film seems to think the subject is quite funny. And, the adultery scenes with Joan Blondell (playing a VERY unusual small part in the film) at the end are pretty funny at that! All in all, a rather salacious film--the sort of thing that was pretty popular in the early 1930s before the toughened Production Code was enacted in 1934. Thereafter, a film such as "Big Business Girl" would either have to be heavily re-written and cleaned up or simply not made at all. An odd little curio that is mildly interesting but not sleazy enough to make it a must-see (such as Loretta's "Platinum Blonde").
A modest film with a small odd and almost quaint hook to it: a young pickpocket has gotten a girl he barely knows pregnant. It's set in the present in New York City, and we gradually learn the thief isn't such a bad guy, but was trapped by circumstances. The girl it turns out is not so bad either, and the two have a troubled but growing friendship as the man figures out his life.
The one bigger twist is a bit exaggerated and then weirdly undevelopedone of the thief's scores is a cop sleeping on the subway. And so this main character is now wanted very much by the police, more than ever. As his life seems to crumbling around him there is the promise of change. His mother moves in with a boyfriend. His pimp (forcing him into crime) is greedy for diamonds. And the girl is wondering what is going on with her own life and love, and what this man might offer her beyond money for an abortion.
It's all very enjoyable, actually, and not so low budget that it hurts. There are some gaffes in the plot, mainly with the cops, but in all it hangs together. Most of all there is the teetering relationship between the young man and woman, and both actors are sweetly believable. In the end, this is a romance, a matter of boy meets girl. And what ensues.
Clearly not an inventive, masterful, or even quite memorable film. But I liked the main characters enough I was taken up by it all, and you might be, too.
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