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Nancy Carroll shines as an innocent woman nearly destroyed by >gossip in this very unflattering portrait of small town America. >Now forgotten, Carroll brings sensitivity, depth, and humor to >her performance. An inexperienced but effective Cary Grant is a >man with charm and without conventional morals. The ending is a >surprise.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This pre-Code film about the hypocrisy of small town life manages to
deviate somewhat from it's conventional outline due to a surprisingly
liberated lead character and convincing performances by the three
principal stars. Nancy Carroll plays a rather independent young woman
who is unfairly given a bad reputation around her hometown, which
embarrasses her parents and even endangers her "rebound" engagement
with one of her lifelong acquaintances, played by the very hunky
Randolph Scott. Both Carroll and Scott are perfectly cast and play
their roles flawlessly (Carroll, in particular, expertly handles some
difficult scenes), but picture is stolen somewhat by a young Cary Grant
as the third point of the love triangle. In what is largely considered
his first leading role, Grant is already a sexy, charismatic presence
in this film and I defy anyone to try taking their eyes off of him
whenever he's on screen.
From a historical perspective, HOT Saturday is also highly interesting due to it's fair amount of surprisingly racy moments; the likes of which wouldn't be seen again in Hollywood until the late-sixties. The highlight is when Carroll forcibly yanks off Rose Coghlan's underwear, and there is even a later illusion to bondage when Carroll appears in gauntlet cuffs. The film also features a surprisingly free-wheeling nature that is uncharacteristic of the era; Carroll's character Ruth is woman who basically embraces her negative reputation and manages to find a degree of liberation in the process, a theme that wouldn't become very popular in movies until nearly four decades later. All of this, in addition to the combustible chemistry between Carroll, Grant, and Scott, render HOT Saturday as a delightfully unconventional film of it's era.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nancy Carroll was exceptionally pretty and could do anything - she
could sing and dance and when given the opportunity was an exceptional
actress. A combination of bad temper and bad film roles toppled her
from her lofty "Queen of the Screen" pedestal after only a couple of
years at the top.
In only his 7th film Cary Grant (looking so young) received top billing over Nancy Carroll (presumably Paramount had high hopes for Grant) but it is Nancy's film all the way.
Ruth Brock (Nancy Carroll) is a pretty bank clerk, who has all the boys in a lather. Everyone is going to Willow Springs on Saturday night and Ruth is going with Connie (Eddie Woods). Romer Sheffield (Cary Grant) is also the talk of the town - the talk is people want him run out of town. After paying $10,000 to get rid of his latest fling, he asks Connie to bring the gang to his place on Saturday for a party.
Ruth is the sole support of her money grubbing family. Her mother (Jane Darwell) is looking forward to the return of Bill (Randolph Scott), a childhood friend of Ruth's, now wealthy and a successful geologist.
When Connie tries "cave man tactics" on Ruth during a boat ride, she jumps ashore and walks back to Romer's house. Earlier in the evening, Romer, who had always been keen on Ruth, got very flirtatious with her, much to Connie's disgust. Connie, driving around looking for her, sees her sitting on Romer's porch. He attempts to "rescue" her but Romer tells him to go back to town and cool off. He goes back to town but for revenge starts spreading rumours about her. The town takes up the story and it spreads like wildfire. Ruth finds she is ostracised and loses her job. In the middle of this Bill comes back and rekindles his romance with Ruth. After a violent scene with her mother - this is a Jane Darwell that is unknown to me. If you have only seen her as the kindly, benevolent matron of Shirley Temple films, it will be quite a shock. I think she badly overacts but it is still something to see.
Ruth runs off in the rain to Bill's digs and after a sexy scene involving removal of wet clothes, he declares his love for her and they become engaged. At the engagement party Bill overhears some gossip about her and calls their engagement off. Connie had maliciously invited Romer - but when Romer arrives he realises what is happening and discreetly goes. Ruth upset by Bill's dressing down leaves with Romer. The next morning Ruth calls in to pick up some clothes and when Bill says he forgives her she says that last night everything the gossips were saying about her was untrue but this morning it was true. She then leaves with Romer for New York and, hopefully, a preacher!!!
Cary Grant was such a natural actor. In the hands of another actor, Romer could have come off stiff and stuffy but Cary made him likable and sensitive. Eddie Woods, who played opposite James Cagney in "The Public Enemy" played Connie and pretty English actress Lilian Bond played Eva. Stanley Smith, who was once a rising star at Paramount and played opposite Nancy Carroll in a couple of early musicals, had the thankless role of Joe. He can be glimpsed in the first scene as a lovesick bank teller and then at Romer's party.
Hot Saturday (1932)
There are a few early Cary Grant movies where he has a small role, or where he isn't quite the "Cary Grant" we have come to expect (and which he always jokingly said he wanted to become himself). But this one is pure, true Grant, and very early, indeed. But even better, the plot, the mise-en-scene (including town scenes, domestic situations, and a range of outdoor stuff at the lake including a bohemian roadhouse on the water), and the photography are amazing. I mean amazing. There are a few stumbles in the acting, but you get so swept along, and so continually surprised, this won't matter much at all.
The director of all this gets a huge amount of credit, because William Seiter who pulls the best out of the cast and the crew, equally--and who presumably helped choose some terrific location shots as well as matching studio scenes. Seiter was a Hollywood working man director, doing lesser A-list films and making them decent, though none that I've seen (a small fraction of a huge output from the 20s to the 40s) has the energy and flair of this one. And this is an unsung one, definitely worth seeking out.
Likewise, Arthur Todd behind the camera did a dumpload of good if unamazing films, and so it was with the music and set design. But the leading lady is another story. Nancy Carroll really steals the show, even from Grant and the other leading male, the rather wooden and handsome Randolph Scott. She has a kind of live-wire, doll-face quality a little similar to Claudette Colbert, easily as amazing in this film. Carroll supposedly had more fan mail than any actress in this era of Hollywood, and was contracted with Paramount (which was the studio here). But she was so difficult to work with offscreen (rejecting many parts) they let her go, and her career slid, and she probably missed out on another higher kind of stardom.
But here she is alive, sympathetic, and complex on screen. If Cary Grant isn't enough to lure you in, give Carroll her due.
This is of course a pre-code film (widely advertised as such) and in fact the looseness of the events, the morality of the lead, and the suggestive scenes (never explicit) all help make this come alive. The dance and party scenes are so much fun you'll wish you were there, and the cave in the storm as well as the night scenes in the woods are pretty amazing, too. The end will prove, again, both the ability of pre-code films to touch on real life issues, and the need of even these kinds of films to have a moral compass by the end. The very last few seconds takes care of this.
Great stuff. A huge surprise for me.
Hot Saturday is neat little pre-code drama with one of Cary Grant's
earliest starring roles. Grant is top-billed but the center of the film
is actually Nancy Carroll, an enormously popular young actress in the
first years of the talkies, 1929-1931 but apparently already starting
to slip in 1932 being second-billed to a newcomer.
Carroll is a pretty bank clerk whom all the local boys are crazy about, including scandalous young heir Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield (aren't all Sheffields in old movies wealthy?), who brings out of town girls in to stay at his estate for weeks at a time. When Cary invites the local young people to his home on the lake for a party, they all happily agree even though he is quite infamous among the older folks. Carroll is escorted by local boy Edward Woods. who turns into quite a leech on private boat ride and when Nancy won't come across, abandons her on the other side of the lake. Nancy ends up walking some distance and the nearest home just so happens to be Cary's estate. When she is seen by her trampy rival Lilan Bond coming home in Grant's car, the jealous bitch starts a rumor that spreads like wildfire that Nancy spent the night alone with Cary, a rumor that causes Nancy to lose her job and threatens her long, chaste romance with Randolph Scott.
This little melodrama has an excellent cast (except for Bond, whose line readings are flat) that makes the slim story interesting. Nancy Carroll is cute and does very well with her role, making her part sympathetic at all times but she is saddled with a terrible hairstyle and has on way too much makeup. Cary Grant is excellent as the free-loving hedonist to whom marriage is a no-no but he is surprisingly topped in sex appeal by his friend Randolph Scott as the decent and shy semi-beau of Carroll's. Edward Woods is very effective as the All American pal who turns out to be a major creep and there's a very good performance from Jane Darwell as Nancy's bossy and prudish mother. Hot Saturday is not a classic but it definitely deserves a look if you enjoy pre-codes.
I got this pre-code collection of 6 early 30s movies from the library,
and the first one into the DVD player was Hot Saturday, starring Nancy
Carroll. Surprisingly, Cary Grant, recipient of Paramount's star
building process, has top billing, although his is a support role. I've
seen Carroll's name and picture in the early 30s movie magazines and
knew she was a star, but I haven't seen any of her films before and
never would have without this collection.
Carroll is not beautiful, but she has star presence. This film is hers and she is wonderful in it. So likable. And the story of mean gossips who destroy her reputation, she the most popular girl in town, is an interesting one. Looking back 80 years it's so surprising to see how important it was for girls to protect their good name in order to capture a husband. Public and private attitudes toward 'bad' girls certainly have changed over the decades.
I was surprised too at Carroll's mother turning against her. Ouch. But her henpecked father believed in her and came to her defense. That was nice. But it was now time to leave her family, neighbors, 'friends', small town, and go on to greener pastures in the Big City with the rich and oh-so-handsome, debonaire, sophisticated, charming, and nice playboy.
After working at other studios when her Paramount contract ended in 1934, her stardom was fini in 1938. What this tells me is that it requires luck to continue to build a career and maintain a hold on the movie-going public. Carroll, like many other short-lived stars, did not have Colbert's luck or business sense. But that's the way the Hollywood cookie crumbles.
Aside from the silly and gratuitous underwear scene, this movie does a
good job of telling the story of poor Ruth Brock, a hard-working,
put-upon small town girl who is judged and persecuted by her neighbors
and so-called friends following a day of fun on an eponymous 'Hot
Saturday' in the summer of 1932.
Subsequent events show how much women had staked on maintaining their reputations at that time, a topic that didn't go away with the enforcement of the production code though it lost a lot of its nuance. The expression on Ruth's face in the last frame of this film is so uncertain...she doesn't know if she's doing the right thing, doesn't know quite what she's getting into. I grieve for the loss of that ambiguity in films made in the years to come.
Nancy Carroll is brilliant in the role of Ruth, sparing the audience tedious hysterics and instead portraying the bitterness and frustration of living in a town of petty fools with nothing better to do than tear each other apart. I sort of wish there were two versions of this movie, one starring Carroll and one starring Barbara Stanwyck so I could do a side-by-side comparison. Stanwyck did such a good job with offended righteousness in 'Night Nurse'. But I'd keep Cary Grant in both...young and perfectly cast in the role of the local "disreputable cad" (that's how he's described (aptly) on the label).
But even a disreputable cad can have good points...and keen-eyed, truthful, pre-production code Ruth won't fail to notice them...
Newcomer Cary Grant was paired with Paramount star Nancy Carroll in Hot
Saturday, a film which is most dated, but still packs quite a punch.
Nancy Carroll's stardom was beginning to slip while Cary as we know was
fast on the rise.
Hot Saturday however is about gossip, something that will eternally be with us. But happy to say some people's attitudes have definitely changed for the better. Nancy Carroll would not be fired today from her job at a bank because of her private life.
Carroll's a popular girl with all the young men of her town, but she's engaged to stalwart Randolph Scott who's a promising young engineer. One of her fellow co-workers at the bank Edward Wood tries to put the moves on her, but she won't give him a tumble. It's he who starts a nasty rumor about Carroll and the town playboy Cary Grant who is guilty of nothing more than offering her a ride home in his car after she ran off from Woods.
Depending on where you are from malicious gossip will probably not have the effect it does on Nancy Carroll. Still it can damage one. Years ago in a former place of work and we're talking now about the 1970s I recall in my office there was a section known as the 'poison pond'. It was where a few women who had nothing else to do but gossip about everything and everyone else around. No escaped their malicious tongues and something like what happens to Nancy Carroll would have been grist for that mill for a month.
Thank God people have a more live and let live attitude, but gossip is still a perennial problem and Hot Saturday deals nicely with it.
Small town 'nice' girl (Nancy Carroll) becomes victim of rumors that she spent the night with wealthy playboy (Cary Grant). Because of this she loses her job and her boyfriend (Randolph Scott). Decent Pre-Coder with some risqué subject matter. Love the funny scene where Nancy Carroll wrestles her younger sister and removes her underwear. Carroll is cute and has good chemistry with Grant. Cary's very charming even this early in his career. Scott's fine, too. Jane Darwell plays Carroll's shrewish mother. Nice production and small town atmosphere. I saw this on TCM and the print is exceptionally good for a movie this old.
Hot Saturday (1932)
*** (out of 4)
Ruth Brock (Nancy Carroll) lives in a very small town where everyone knows the other person's business. The whole town loves to gossip with a lot of it being about Romer Sheffield (Cary Grant) who is a notorious womanizer. One day Ruth and Romer strike up a friendship and a jealous man decides to spread a vicious rumor and pretty soon the whole town turns on Ruth.
HOT Saturday is a morality tale about how stupid people in stupid small towns like to play moral cops and will throw away anyone they feel is beneath them. Obviously this film could hit home even today as gossip still runs rampant and is even more so on something like social media. If you're looking for a flawless movie or even a classic one then this really isn't that but at the same time it's a rather charming and entertaining film that's certainly worth watching.
It should go without saying but the highlight of the films are the actual performances. I really enjoyed Carroll in the lead as she was very believable in the role of the woman with morals who finds herself being attacked by a bunch of rumors. I really did think Carroll got the "good girl" aspect correct and she kept you glued to what was going on. Grant is also very good playing the playboy who isn't quite as shallow as some would believe. Randolph Scott is good as her eventual love interest and Jane Darwell is exceptionally good as the rather bad mother. Grady Sutton also has a nice role as does Edward Woods as a real slime-ball who sadly never gets his due in the picture.
Director William A. Seiter does a good job with the material even though there's certainly nothing ground-breaking here. The story is a quite simple one and it gets its point across without having to become too preachy.
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