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Cassie has come to New York and goes to work as a model where her friend Gladys works. She falls in love with wealthy young Jerry who is already married. Gladys has the same probelm with her man Phelps.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
THREE WISE GIRLS (Columbia, 1932), directed by William Beaudine, is early Jean Harlow, vintage Columbia, and routinely made story dealing with three young girls (usually three) attempting to make good in the Big City, and the men who take part in their personal lives. Adapted from the story, "Blonde Baby" by Wilson Collison, there's nobody legally blonder than the platinum blonde baby herself, Jean Harlow (1911-1937), making her second and final feature presentation for Columbia. Though PLATINUM BLONDE (1931), her initial film for Columbia, is known mostly as an early Frank Capra directed comedy, THREE WISE GIRLS offers nothing really outstanding for Harlow except the opportunity in handling a leading film role for the first time.
Of the THREE WISE GIRLS, the story introduces Cassie Barnes (Jean Harlow), a small town girl living at home with her mother (Lucy Beaumont) and earning a living as a soda jerker for Lem (Robert Dudley) at the Chillicoale Drug Store. Finding that her good friend, Gladys Kane, has found success away from the town they grew up in, Cassie decides to follow suit by quitting her job and moving to New York City. Sharing an place with Dot (Marie Prevost), who supports herself addressing envelopes in their apartment, Cassie, soon meets Jerry Wilson (Walter Byron), a drunken millionaire, at the drug store. After quitting her third soda jerking job since moving to the city, Jerry, in good faith, takes Cassie home in his limousine. Later, Cassie comes to meet with Gladys (Mae Clarke), whom she hasn't seen in three years, at her place of work. Learning of her unemployment situation, Gladys arranges her employer, Andre (Armand Kaliz) to use Cassie as one of the models at $60 a week. As Cassie becomes romantically involved with Jerry, her situation soon patterns that of Gladys' courtship with Arthur Phelps (Jameson Thomas), a rich banker with eyes on Cassie, while Dot takes an interest in Jerry's chauffeur, Barney Callahan (Andy Devine). Complications soon take its toll for one of the "three wise girls."
Brief (67 minutes), and to the point, THREE WISE GIRLS limits itself of character introduction and plot development by presenting what it needs to be addressed without any drawn-out scenes. For Jean Harlow's first starring role, she's not bad. Her acting technique would improve greatly following her move to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio where all her future films were made, with comedy being her finest contribution to the motion picture industry. Harlow's Cassie is sometimes sassy, but mostly on the serious side. She's unlucky when it comes to men as evidenced in the opening scene that has her walking home alone from a date she abandoned some miles down the road. She later loses her jobs due to some overly aggressive bosses. Regardless of setbacks, Cassie will not give up her dream to make it on her own. As for the co-stars, Mae Clarke, the secondary character living in a luxurious penthouse, comes off best with her natural flare of acting, with advise of not ending up "behind the eight ball"; while Marie Prevost, the third "wise girl," with little to do except being the funny member of the trio with the most common sense. Andy Devine, the one in chauffeur's uniform, is almost unrecognizable here, speaking only a few lines of dialog, none which have that recognizable trademark raspy voice for which he's known. Walter Byron, sometimes classified by film historians as a poor man's "Ronald Colman," does satisfactory work as a millionaire with his distrust for women, but would drift to uncredited parts by the end of the decade. Others in the cast include Natalie Moorehead (Rita Wilson), Katharine Clare Ward (Mrs. Kane), and Marcia Harris as the no-nonsense landlady.
With the exception of sporadic reissues in revival movie houses in New York City during the 1970s and 80s, THREE WISE GIRLS remains a seldom seen Harlow product. Though this time filler made its way on cable television's Turner Classic Movies July 10, 2009, one can only hope for revivals of other extremely rare Harlow finds as THE Saturday NIGHT KID (Paramount, 1929), GOLDIE (Fox, 1931) and THE IRON MAN (Universal, 1931) to become part of a television broadcast package. (**)
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