Relatively routine melodrama, which would not have been out of place at MGM about five years prior, the kind that Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery always seemed to be hovering around. By 1936 the plot of the potentially irreconcilable class differences between mates seems rather trite, but perhaps with the depression still waging it might have been more potent than we can discern 60-plus years later. Certainly with the production code in full force by 1936 it avoids any notion of impropriety and one is left to wonder if in the original source material, a novel by Missouri author Vida Hurst, some elements were a bit more realistic. It's said that Hurst's writings usually focused on single female protagonists who were very romantic and sexually aware, but in this film, while the lead character of the interestingly and perhaps a bit too symbolically named "Treasure," is undoubtedly experienced, her situations are imbued with the code's inherent Victorian standards.
Her encounters with men in the film are simplistic and reduced to stereotype: The mustache twirling would-be evil seducer; the naive and virtuous younger man; and the innocuous, impotent best friend. The overriding ideal, of course, is that the upper class is always attempting to maintain what they perceive as the natural order of things as far as suppressing anyone and anything that would risk their hierarchy. Not a new theme by any means, but one intriguing development, also not new, but nicely done here, is the efforts of the rich mother and oldest son to corrupt the younger son into their skewed way of thinking. This would suggest that people are not necessarily born with a silver spoon in their mouth, they are carefully manipulated into being as insular and conservative as their storied ancestors. What chance does an ex-taxi dancer, stocking model like Treasure Maguire stand against the perpetually ruthless maneuvering of the reining powers that be? Particularly during the depression era the wealthy class must have been seen as predominantly iniquitous in their subjugation of the hoi polloi. But this film hedges its bets, as apparently other Vida Hurst stories do, by expressing the immortal myth that even through the most essential doubts and trials, perhaps true love can conquer all.
Enticingly titled, dance buffs will be disappointed to learn there is no dancing in the film, ergo no literal tangoing. The title superficially deals with the brand name of "Tango," the stockings that our heroine models, but one presumes Vida Hurst also meant it to symbolically represent the complex steps of the dance being reflected in the machinations perpetrated by the mother and her son.
The film was produced by independent, poverty row studio Invincible Pictures, often billed as Chesterfield-Invincible, shortly before they ceased operations. It was directed by Prussian born, ex-cinematographer and silent film director, Phil Rosen, but it never rises above its meager budget as a B film, exemplified by a mostly static camera and largely interior scenes. As such the acting is expected to carry most of the load and in that it is quite successful with sincere performances that often render the trite situations compelling. In one of her last roles before retiring that same year, Marian Nixon gives one of her usually confident and affecting performances. She was one of those working actresses who made many silent films and transitioned well into talkies, but never really achieved recognition and is mostly forgotten today. Seeing her in this and, especially the interesting, though stage-bound melodramatic early talkie about abortion, SCARLET PAGES (WB/1930), she is very natural, often heartbreakingly so given what tribulations her characters must endure. It's a shame she retired as she might have become a very good character actress as she matured, something that may have been her destiny all along. Chick Chandler, who is listed second in the credits, but doesn't have much of a part, is also excellent, especially in later scenes where he has to convey his unrequited love for Treasure. It's rather a plot contrivance by that point in the story and unnecessary, but it allows Chandler to further patent, but also transcend that ineffectual nice guy sidekick he was usually saddled with playing. He is called upon to enact a sacrifice at the end, only minutes after a revelation which comes too late to bear much significance, but he makes it seem actually touching and heartfelt due to his sincerity.
Rarely screened anywhere (perhaps it will someday join the other Invincible Pictures productions already released on bargain basement Alpha DVD), it is worth seeing for its period distrust of high society preservation at any cost and for its earnest performances.
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