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Scandal Sheet is a 1931 American crime film directed by John Cromwell and written by Oliver H.P. Garrett, Vincent Lawrence and Max Marcin. The film stars George Bancroft, Kay Francis, Clive... See full summary »
Down and Dirty Poverty Row Noir from...KAY FRANCIS!!
There is great cause for celebration among fans of obscure and esoteric films because ALLOTMENT WIVES (1945), a provocative and tremendously fascinating example of poverty row noir finally premieres on Turner Classic Movies on September 26. Produced as part of a three picture deal between star / producer Kay Francis and Monogram Pictures, this peculiar trilogy served as Miss Francis' Hollywood swan song. The other two films, DIVORCE (1945) and WIFE WANTED (1946) are both well-produced, better than average melodramas, but nowhere near as ambitious or entertaining as ALLOTMENT WIVES.
What this film might lack in customary Hollywood sophistication it more than makes up for in gnarly pulp energy. Francis plays Sheila Seymour, a sleek and stylish society gal who in reality is the head of a noxious crime syndicate that preys mercilessly on returning World War II servicemen. They zero in on impressionable and lonely vets and before long they're engaged to one of Sheila's "girls." After pocketing the GI's allotment pay, the gals are soon on their way to their next mark, leaving a trail of devastated saps strewn along the post-war landscape. Things become emotionally complicated when Sheila's beautiful young daughter Corrine (Teala Loring) arrives home from her swanky boarding school (she's been oblivious to Mom's business dealings) and slowly begins to unravel the sordid details of her mother's dreadful criminal activities. Also in the cast are the wonderfully creepy Otto Kruger as Francis' odious partner in crime, the equally creepy Paul Kelly as a military investigator and the always menacing Gertrude Michael as one of Francis' old racket rivals who's out for a little revenge.
In many ways this film bears more than a passing resemblance to the much tonier and more famous MILDRED PIERCE, released by Warner Bros the same year. But ALLOTMENT WIVES gets the nasty tone of noir's tawdrier aspects better than Michael Curtiz' glossy soap opera. In fact, the crucial showdown scene between mother and daughter at the climax of ALLOTMENT WIVES plays out much more dramatically and, more importantly, realistically than the overwrought scenes between Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth.
For those who enjoy their film noir a bit on the exotic side, ALLOTMENT WIVES is must viewing, especially for those with a predisposition for down and dirty, unpretentious poverty row entertainment.
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