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The Rat (1937)
Not bad, if you can find it.
This was a solid little melodrama about the Parisian underworld, its denizens and visitors. Anton Walbrook plays Jean Bucheron aka the Rat, a cat-burglar with a heart of, well, at least bronze, maybe silver. A friend on death-row, about to go to his rendez-vous with la guillotine, sends for Jean to ask him to take care of his daughter, the innocent young Odile. By "take care of", the friend means "keep your hands off of", which Jean manages to do, for awhile. Besides keeping his own hands off, Jean is also called upon to fend off a persistent madam who seems to have no goal in life but to recruit Odile, and some sort of ugly sailor.
Then Zelia, a wealthy woman played by Ruth Chatterton, goes on a little police-escorted slumming trip with her odious boyfriend, and they end up at Jean's usual haunt just in time to interrupt his plans to kill his ex-partner in a knife fight. Zelia decides she wants to meet the handsome young knife-fighter and has the chief of police introduce her. The chief of police says "you don't want to meet him, he's a very unpleasant character" and Zelia responds "but I know so many pleasant characters already". She needles Jean into dancing with her, and later that night he cat-burgles his way into her boudoir, more to finish their conversation than to steal her pearls.
The two get chummy and evidently go on dates all over the place, though we only see the notes arranging the dates and not the dates themselves. Meanwhile Zelia's god-awful fiancée has taken a shine to Odile and a murder is the result of that. Then it's time for the big courtroom scene where everyone plays a game of Oneupsmanship Of Lies, with a trip to the guillotine as grand prize.
Good Dame (1934)
A very thugly Fredric March.
Right away in the opening credits you can get a pretty good idea of what's going to be right and what's going to be wrong with this movie. It has two things going for it: the adorable kitten-faced Sylvia Sidney, and Fredric "Total Pro" March. But then the credits let slip the film's weak point: five writers. For a 70 minute film with basically only two characters? Five writers. And it shows.
Well, Lillie (Sylvia Sidney) is a young runaway who has been fired from her first job, chorus-girling, and then gets her purse snatched by Mace (Fredric March)'s sidekick, Spats, at a carnival. Mace is one of those card-mixer-upper guys you used to see in New York subway stations. Apparently this used to be a legitimate career, because later he is offered a job in another carnival.
Mace feels bad because he accepted half of Lillie's money from Spats before he met her and heard her sad story. So when she and the other "cooch dancers" at the carnival are arrested, Mace has Spats rob their boss Bluch to get the $50 to bail Lillie out. The other cooch dancers are mercilessly left behind, to sit in a small town jail for six months.
Bluch beats the facts out of Spats (who then mysteriously disappears from the movie) and pretty soon Mace and Lillie are marooned in a nameless and non-descript town, while the very shady carnival moves on. They take adjoining hotel rooms, and although Mace professes a wish that Lillie would keep away from him, she soon finds ways to monopolize him out from under the blonde across the hall, "accidentally" ruining his only two shirts when he wants to go dancing, etc.
The dialogue is never cute, it is frequently nonsensical, and in some wince-worthy moments it is totally undeliverable. The characters are motiveless. The plot is snarled and fails to hold audience interest. The sets and costumes are unexceptional. The camera work and cinematography just sort of lay there. Basically I'm saying don't seek this movie out. Let it come to you, if that's your fate, but even then don't feel obliged to watch it unless you're a Fredric March completist. If you are, it's a bit of a curio, because he seems to be doing some sort of a Cagney impression.
Four stars out of ten.