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Sailor Spike dates girls whose names he finds in an address book. Each girl has the same tatoo, placed there by another sailor Bill. When Spike meets Bill they become friends. In Calais Spike meets Goldie. Bill warns him against her, but Spike ignores the warning until he finds Bill's tatoo on Goldie as well. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Underneath the opening credits of this film there is a striking portrait of the gorgeous young Jean Harlow, barely out of her teens, grinning into the camera. You better take a good look while you have the chance because she won't be back until the picture is half over, and while you wait you'll have to deal with the tiresome comedy of Warren Hymer.
Who's Warren Hymer? He was a big lug who played character roles in movies of the '30s and '40s, usually small parts as boxers, convicts, thick-witted sidekicks, etc. As a colorful member of the ensemble he was fine, sometimes a stand-out, but as the comic lead in GOLDIE he's a dud. It isn't the actor's fault, he's obviously trying his best, but the material is weak and obvious, and the laughs are sparse. Hymer plays a dim-witted sailor named Spike who lands in lots of colorful ports, everywhere from Odessa to Rio. (All these locations bear a suspicious resemblance to the Fox back-lot, but no matter.) Spike is on the prowl for a girlfriend, but it seems that every woman he finds has already been claimed, so to speak, by a fellow sailor named Bill. Of course Spike and Bill eventually meet up, and fists fly.
This film was the talkie remake of Howard Hawks' late silent A GIRL IN EVERY PORT, which was heavily influenced by the huge success of the prototypical "battling buddy" flick WHAT PRICE GLORY? The latter was a smash hit that spawned zillions of imitations, service comedies in which a pair of two-fisted he-men (Marines, sailors, or whatever) get into scrapes, battle over women, etc. But while WHAT PRICE GLORY? was based on a first-rate play by Maxwell Anderson, chock-a-block with crackling tough-guy dialog, some of the imitations weren't nearly so well written.
And that brings us back to GOLDIE. I was lured to this film by the fascinating cast: Jean Harlow takes the role played by Louise Brooks in the silent version, and Bill the rake is played by none other than Spencer Tracy, only 31 years old and fresh from Broadway. (George Raft is on hand too, briefly, as a pickpocket.) But this movie was made long before Tracy's customary screen persona had been developed, and viewers familiar with his later work will be surprised at the macho tom-cat he plays here. Those unaccustomed to films of the Pre-Code era may also be startled by the recurring plot motif concerning the "brand" (i.e. a tattoo) Tracy leaves on each of his conquests. When he isn't loving 'em and leaving 'em, Tracy is mostly reduced to playing straight man for Hymer, who dominates the first half. And while we wait for the leading lady there's lots of male bonding stuff, you know, boozy brawling in saloons and philosophical talk about how dames ain't on the level. When Jean Harlow finally shows up she's a sight for sore eyes, but like Tracy she hadn't yet fully come into her own as a screen presence. RED-HEADED WOMAN in 1932 really launched her stardom, in but these earlier appearances Harlow, though vibrant, sometimes seems unsure of herself. Here she plays a high-diver in a Calais carnival and looks very fetching indeed in her bathing suit. She and Tracy have a couple of decent scenes together towards the end, but by that point the show's practically over.
For a great Harlow-Tracy pairing I can recommend LIBELED LADY, a terrific comedy made five years after this one. Fans interested in their earlier work might want to give this one a look, but will most likely be disappointed. I wish both leads had been granted more (and better) material. As for Warren Hymer-- well, nothing personal, but he's not my cup of tea, not here anyway.
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