Min owns the waterfront hotel where Bill, the captain of a fishing boat, lives. Also living and working in the hotel is Nancy, whom Min took in some years ago as an abandoned girl. Now that Nancy is older, the truant officer and the police think that she should be moved to a different environment, and Min is torn between her attachment to Nancy and her concern that the waterfront may not be the best place for a young woman. Matters are brought to a head by the sudden re-appearance of Belle, Nancy's disreputable mother.Written by
"Min and Bill" is one of those early sound films that's just too antiquated to enjoy anymore. It's not just that it was made in the early 1930s -- plenty of other films made around the same time ("All Quiet on the Western Front," "The Public Enemy," "M" are just a few that spring to mind) play just as well now as they did then. No, "Min and Bill" is just too flimsy, too poorly constructed, and too poorly acted to be of much interest to a modern day film fan.
The only interest the film really has is to give us a look at the performance that brought Marie Dressler her Academy Award for Best Actress. Dressler was a bit of an oddity, and her story would still be odd today. A quite ugly, middle aged actress who bucked all conventions of what a Hollywood actress should look like but who nevertheless was the top box office draw for a few short years. I wish I could say that her performance in "Min and Bill" justifies her allure, but I can't. A stage actress who also appeared in some silent films, Dressler doesn't know how to modulate her acting for the sound medium. She's all exaggerated mugs and grimaces. Wallace Beery fares much better, and I know audiences at the time were tickled by his and Dressler's antics, which involved Dressler beating the crap out of him. But that scene, as well as another in which Dressler finds herself in a runaway speed boat, plays the comedy too broadly, clearly inspired by the slapstick silent comedies that only recently transitioned into sound versions themselves. None of it is very funny, and much of it is actually pretty stupid.
Marjorie Rambeau shows up a bit later in the movie and enticed me with the promise of a good performance, but she goes off the acting rails in her later scenes and ends up being as bad as everyone else.
I would only recommend this movie if you're an Academy Award completist, but for no other reason.
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