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A. Edward Sutherland
William 'Stage' Boyd,
Jo (Ann Dvorak), a "percentage girl" at the notorious Club 46, is in despair. She can see no way out of the dreary and sordid routine of entertaining customers - called drinking and dancing in 1940 - and, at a signal from piano player Eddie Morgan (Douglas Fowley), rolling them for their money. Eddie, besides being brutal to her and spending all her money, is also carrying on an affair with another girl. Jo's only friend is Annie (Wynne Gibson), a former actress but now a drink-sodden derelict. Annie keeps to herself the knowledge that it was Eddie who threw the knife that killed a petty racketeer who was too attentive to Jo. Sailor Dan Walters (Preston Foster) and two of his pals arrive from a cruise and his good nature delights Joe, but at a wink from Eddie, Jo attempts to steal his money. Dan swallows his disillusionment and returns to the cafe, and he and Jo enjoy a day-long picnic together. She accepts his marriage proposal and go to an up-state town where he has a job waiting. ...Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
"Cafe Hostess" seemed promising because of its star, Ann Dvorak, an intriguing actress whom Hollywood didn't seem to know what to do with. The film begins stylistically but immediately slows down. It's not until about midway that the drama engaged me mainly because it gives Dvorak something to do other than schmooze with potential johns while picking their pockets. Preston Foster's romantic lead performance is good even though his character is poorly written, presenting him more as a romantic ideal than a real person. I was waiting for a surprise about him that didn't happen. Wynne Gibson is fine as an aging "hostess" even though the script telegraphs early on how she will save the day. Douglas Fowley as the misogynistic gangster is properly menacing and despicable, an interesting surprise since he played the comical, exasperated film director in "Singin' in the Rain" twelve years later. I saw this film as part of a Noir festival at the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque.
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