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Fisherman Dutch marries cannery worker Hattie. He quits his poorly paid job to concentrate on getting better working conditions as union leader. Unfortunately, the union members disagree with Dutch's ideas and kick him out. Without a job or union card to get another he leaves Hattie to look for work. Hattiee steals money to help him when she learns he is really down on his luck and she goes to jail. He gets a new job, foils a plot to dynamite the ship, and promises to wait for Hattie. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
A charge of negligence was brought against MGM by the California State Industrial Welfare Committee on behalf of the 40 female extras who were drenched in the prison rainstorm sequence. It contended that women who lost work because of illness after that sequence should be compensated. Each of the extras received an extra $15 as an initial compensation. See more »
...but I guess the title "Riffraff" would do as well as anything else MGM could have come up with - but it's not very descriptive. Hattie (Jean Harlow) is a cannery worker in love with Dutch (Spencer Tracy), a very good fisherman and also a tremendous blow-hard. He fancies himself the leader of some future workers' revolution. Hattie lives with her extended family including sister Lil (Una Merkel) and Lil's husband and two kids, with the son being played by a mischievous Mickey Rooney. Dutch doesn't treat Hattie very well - they spend most of their time arguing, and to complicate matters she has caught the eye of wharf boss Nick (Joseph Calleia).
However, between arguments, Dutch and Hattie do manage to get married. Some have asked whatever Hattie saw in a selfish windbag like Dutch, but if a coherent 500 word essay was a prerequisite for love it would be the end of the human race, and I have seen odder pairings in real life that worked. They are married only a few months when Dutch decides he was meant for bigger and better things, and he tells Hattie he is leaving her - for awhile - to find his destiny. She understandably doesn't take this well, and he gets the last word in by saying that it's goodbye for keeps. Thus begins the long melodrama of these two apart as Dutch's plans don't exactly work out as he figured and an impulsive act by Hattie meant to aid Dutch in a time of trouble and that act's repercussions show Dutch how selfish he has been and how much she really means to him.
In spite of the melodrama, there really are no bad guys here. Even lecherous Nick is likable in his own way, and his conversations with his lawyer are particularly humorous. Thus this film is pure Depression-era entertainment in the MGM tradition. It has many of the familiar building blocks of 30's MGM dramas, but they are assembled in a rather quirky way such that this is nothing that will change the world, but it's still very interesting. The cast is outstanding with good performances by all. Especially notable is Una Merkel's performance as loyal sister Lil who manages to be simultaneously feisty and frumpy.
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