Lally is a rich girl whose father writes books and plays Polo. After 23 years of marriage, he decides to divorce his wife, and marry Mrs. Chevers. This sours Lally on all men, while on ... See full summary »
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 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1930), directed by George Hill, stars Marie Dressler (1869-1934) and Wallace Beery (1885-1949) in the title roles. Suggested from the book "Dark Star" by Lorna Moon, with adaptation by Frances Marion, with comic book title sounding characters of equal status, is actually a comedy-drama that emphasis more on Min than on Bill. So much on the Min character, it's Dressler who won her only Academy Award as Best Actress of 1930-31, which shows this 67 minute production to be Dressler's movie from start to finish, down to her frequent close-ups and drab clothing.
Plot development introduces Min Divot (Marie Dressler)of Seattle, living on the waterfront dive of San Pedro, California. She is a hard-boiled but good-natured dockside innkeeper who's very good friends with Bill (Wallace Beery), a fisherman whom Min describes as "too dumb to be anything but honest." Aside from Min giving Bill his usual barber shop haircut, Bill also shares the responsibility in helping her raise Nancy Smith (Dorothy Jordan), a teenage girl who works for Min. Having raised Nancy since her prostitute mother abandoned her six-month-old infant in her care, Min's responsibility now is avoiding truant officers wanting to take Nancy back to school for her education, as well as keeping her from the clutches of steady customer, Alec Johnson (Russell Hopton), out for no good. Nancy eventually goes to boarding school under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Southard (Frank McGlynn and Gretta Gould), but rather be with Min above everything else. Though Min loves Nancy as her very own child, to get her to go back to school, she shows tough love by pretending she doesn't want her anymore. Nancy finally goes North for her schooling, and two years later, Nancy, who has found true love with Dick Cameron (Donald Dillaway), telegraphs Min with the good news of returning home with her fiance. During her voyage on ship, she and Dick encounter a drunken passenger, Bella Pringle (Marjorie Rambeau), who, unknown to Nancy, happens to be her mother, believed dead. When Min notices Bella getting off the same boat as Nancy, it is up to Min to make sure their paths don't ever meet.
Distributed on video cassette in the mid 1980s, and later DVD, cable television broadcast of MIN AND BILL have been in recent years on Turner Network Television (1988-1990) and Turner Classic Movies (since 1994). For anyone unfamiliar with MIN AND BILL, the premise starts off amusingly as a madcap comedy in the silent film tradition of comedy director, Mack Sennett. One scene, in particular, involves Min and Nancy in a runaway motorboat, followed by the Min character's falling into the water in a scene reminiscent to Dressler's similar encounter from her silent comedy, TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE (1914).
Dressler, with a physical build of a lady wrestler, is equally matched opposite the big and burly Beery, especially during their slightly violent physical battle in the Three Stooges comedy tradition. Aside from some lighter amusements, Dressler demonstrates her fine ability as a dramatic actress as well. Of the supporting players, Marjorie Rambeau is memorable in her unsympathetic role, yet virtually unrecognizable as opposed to her latter movie roles due to her physical appearance and higher-speaking voice. Had MIN AND BILL been remade with title characters married to appease the production code in the 1940s, chances are new casting might have been those of Marjorie Main, Frank Morgan, Beulah Bondi and Donna Reed in the Dressler, Beery, Rambeau and Jordan roles. As it stands, MIN AND BILL, never remade, is certainly fine the way it is. Dressler and Beery make a grand team. Aside from they sharing no scenes together in DINNER AT EIGHT (1933), Dressler and Beery worked one more time in TUGBOAT ANNIE (MGM, 1933), which is often confused with similar background and story of MIN AND BILL, both worthy recommendations. (***)
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