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Rags-to-riches Hennessey meets newlyweds Jessie and Eddie from his old neighborhood. Eddie plots to have Jessie divorce him, marry Hennessey, divorce Hennessey, then bring Hennessey's money into remarriage with Eddie. His plan goes awry at several points.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Tracy, Crawford and Borzage should add up to more than this
I hate to be a spoil sport, but I must disagree with the other reviewers who are un-restrained in their enthusiasm for the only Joan Crawford/Spencer Tracy co-starring vehicle. The movie often feels as though it had been re-heated and, while it has many admirable moments, just as many ring false. Crawford herself remains remote and aloof for much of the running time and, while Spencer Tracy probably couldn't give a false performance if he tried, his heart doesn't seem to be in it either.
The early scenes, in which Joan plays a poor, restless girl who lives in a tenement with her ne'er do well father and brother, as well as with her overworked, tired mother are so stilted and obvious they are an embarrassment. These scenes play almost like parodies of the previous Crawford vehicles POSSESSED (1931), DANCING LADY (1933) and SADIE McKEE (1934). Crawford has played this "noble girl whose ambitions will lift her out of her miserable station in life" part before, and she has played it better. Here she seems tired, like she's not even believing it herself and, although it may sound un-gallant to mention, she's a little long in the tooth to play this type of role convincingly (God forgive me).
Things brighten considerably when Tracy and Crawford begin to spark and it is the middle section of the movie that is the most enjoyable. A lot of this may stem from the fact that the middle section contains the least amount of screen time for Alan Curtis, who plays Joan's "so bad he's hissable" louse of a husband. Curtis is so one dimensional and so "obviously" rotten that you wonder what Crawford's character could EVER have seen in him.
Complaints aside, there are good and memorable moments to be found in MANNEQUIN. When Tracy and Crawford are alone on-screen, they both seem to be off of their game, but together, they have a haunting chemistry that transcends explanation. They both manage to convey that they truly understand and accept what the other is thinking, a rarity in film. It makes MANNEQUIN all the more frustrating when we get glimpses of what made these two the magnificent stars they were. It disappoints me that they never worked together again in a project more worthy of their combined talents.
Standing in dramatic counterpoint to Crawford's 1938 "box office poison" label, MANNEQUIN was a big hit with audiences early that year. Other, more ambitious (and in my opinion, more interesting) Crawford vehicles such as THE BRIDE WORE RED (1937) and THE SHINING HOUR (1938), however, were not.
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