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Three women who were childhood schoolmates take different paths in life. Vivian marries a very wealthy lawyer and has an adorable boy. Mary, on the other hand, takes the hard road through reform school. After a superstitious faux pas, Vivian's luck turns. She strays from her steadfast husband to a life of debauchery and alcoholism. Meanwhile, Mary turns her life around and not only wins the heart of Vivian's ex-husband, but also becomes a loving step-mother to Vivian's only child. Then Vivian's worthless boyfriend makes a desperate move. Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
THREE ON A MATCH turns out to be bad luck for a trio of young women meeting again years after their high school graduation.
This pre-Code Warner Bros. drama takes the old theme of a good girl gone bad, but deliberately shies away from platitudes or even any hope for redemption. The film's fallen woman lands in the gutter quite literally and the movie leaves her there, with the plot offering no loopholes for her possible regeneration.
Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak & Bette Davis portray the three friends whose lives take them down very different paths. Blondell, as the bad girl turned actress, steals the film with her blonde brashness and good humor. Dvorak, as the rich girl with the husband & child, is so relentlessly unsatisfied and morose that she becomes quite a burden for the viewer to bear. Demure Davis, as the poor secretary, is given very little to do and gets to exhibit none of the fire which would characterize her performances in years to come.
The male members of the cast give good support to the ladies. Warren William, who so often played the villain, here is given the sympathetic role of Dvorak's harried husband; he gives his usual sophisticated performance. Lyle Talbot plays a society cad & coward, destroyed by gambling & booze. Although he has but one scene, Edward Arnold is most effective as a menacing crime boss - we first come upon him while he is calmly plucking hairs out of his nose! Humphrey Bogart & Allen Jenkins play his dangerous enforcers.
Movie mavens will spot in uncredited roles Grant Mitchell as the girls' high school principal, Clara Blandick as Blondell's distraught mother, Herman Bing as an exuberant school band leader and the glorious Glenda Farrell, not quite yet a star, as a reformatory inmate.
An amusing aspect of the film is how it shows the passage of time by incorporating popular tunes of the era, including "Smiles," "The Sheik of Araby," "The Prisoner's Song," "Charleston," "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes," "I Found A Million Dollar Baby" & "Happy Days Are Here Again."
Notice the reference to Ivar Kreuger, the real-life industrialist who attempted to monopolize the match market. Crimes and scandal dogged his organization and he died a suicide in Paris in March of 1932, seven months before the premiere of THREE ON A MATCH. On New Year's Eve, 1932, Warner Bros. would release THE MATCH KING, starring Warren William and loosely based on Kreuger's nefarious life.
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