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Morning Glory

Gasser

Morning Glory (1933)

     I am a little puzzled by 1933’s Morning Glory. It was the source of Katharine Hepburn‘s first Oscar win, but the film itself is quite underwhelming and borderline bad. I also perceive this as something that had Hepburn done it later in her career, the Academy would not even have sniffed in her direction come awards season.

     Hepburn is Eva Lovelace, a young woman from a small town in Vermont who seeks a career on the New York stage. She received positive reviews in small productions at home and is highly convinced of her talents, if only she could get a break. Eva is also supremely talkative. She makes fast friends with an older actor while in the office of a Broadway producer and before he can get a work in edgewise demands he give her speaking lessons for free until she can afford to pay for them. This man, R.H. Hedges (C. Aubrey Smith) introduces the girl to the producer Louis Easton, played by Adolphe Menjou, and a playwriter Joseph Sheridan (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). Before departing the office where she is told there are not parts for her, Eva walks right into Easton’s office and says her farewells to the bigwig and Joseph.

     We jump to some months later when Hedges finds Eva in a diner drinking coffee, clearly her only sustenance for the day. She’s wearing the same dress we saw before but claims that she has been in and out of work on the stage. Apparently, Easton had given her a try in a small role in which she failed “to make good.” Hedges ends up taking the young woman to a party at Easton’s home where guests are celebrating the successful debut of a play written by Joseph. At this party, Eva gets drunk before fatherly figures Easton and Hedges can get a plate of food to her and while out of sight from Joseph, who has clearly taken a shine to the girl. Once sauced, Eva pets Easton’s head, puts on two Shakespearean performances and passes out at the producer’s feet. A servant is instructed to put Eva in “the” bed.

     In the morning, Easton reveals to Joseph he has “gotten involved” with a girl and needs his pal to deliver a note or possibly an envelope of money to the dame. When Joseph learns the chick is Eva, he is upset and tells Easton of his feelings. Coming down from her slumber, the aspiring actress talks to Joseph about her ambitions for a happy, successful life with Easton before departing.

     Next up is a montage of some small-town productions to which Eva has been relegated because of her Broadway failures. Somehow, however, she has also been cast in a bit-part for Joseph’s new show. When the leading lady (Mary Duncan) makes severe contract demands before the curtain opens on the first show, she is ousted and Joseph puts Eva in, where she gives a roaringly good performance. The movie concludes with Hedges and Easton warning the girl not to be a “morning glory” that fades away quickly after coming into the spotlight. Joseph then declares his love, but Eva does not want it. The scene fades out on Eva yelling how she is not afraid to be a morning glory and will spend all her money on extravagant things.

     Hopefully I conveyed in my synopsis the sort of sloppiness of this story. Firstly, I found it bizarre how a Broadway producer would behave so caringly for some nobody actress, hundreds of which pass through his office daily. Most theater-based movies depict the lofty producer to which no one can get close enough for a chance. Here, Menjou comes off as a man unnaturally fatherly toward what seems to be a talentless child. Unlike most movies about girls looking to become stage stars, Eva does not show promise or make a smash right off, which makes it also unlikely that the characters would keep giving her chances or thinking she has something in her. As for the closing sequence with congratulations being overshadowed by stern warnings not to quickly become a has-been, well that was harsh. And Hepburn’s declaration that she will be frivolous with her fame is also a what-the-hell moment. The romantic plot with Fairbanks is also poorly conveyed. We know right off he will love Eva because that’s just what happens in these movies, but one never really feels like anything solid exists there.

     Morning Glory was Hepburn’s fourth film, although it was released with two others in her second year in Hollywood, so she did well to take an Oscar so early. She also won critical acclaim for Little Women and Christopher Strong that year. Her performance here is a good one and highlights how different she was from other actresses with her funny voice and unique face. There were only two other nominees in the Best Actress category this year, but because I have not seen Lady for a Day or Cavalcade, I cannot surmise why Hepburn might have beat out the other two. Hepburn certainly gave grander performances down the road that make Morning Glory look like nothing special, but as a new star on the scene, I can understand why Hollywood was mesmerised.

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Our Blushing Brides

Dullsville

Our Blushing Brides (1930)

     Perhaps such a low rating is not the best way to commence the critiques on this blog, but it happened to be the first I consumed after deciding to go ahead with  this endeavor. It also is appropriately reflective of my film focus as of late.

 
     I have been (for lack of a better word) obsessed with Robert Montgomery for the better part of a year now in an affair that started with Alfred Hitchcock’s only straight comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Joan Crawford, on the other hand, I’ve been pursuing just because of some unfounded fascination–I know she was an absolute terror in person, but she’s so gorgeous!
 
     Like many Crawford movies, however, and even more so than those of Montgomery, Our Blushing Brides was a pale effort at drama, romance and cashing in on the former’s “box office gold” status. The picture is the third in a series of Crawford movies, including Our Dancing Daughters (which really established her stardom) and Our Modern Maidens. Brides came just after Crawford married her first husband Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who was a costar in Maidens and the partnership with whom launched Crawford to Hollywood high society.
 
     It chronicles three roommates who work in different areas of a major New York department store. Crawford is a model and Montgomery is the store owner’s oldest son who tries to catch her eye. In his efforts to do so, however, we are faced with an exceedingly uncomfortable scene when the man oggles the lingerie-clad model.
 
     Now this film came out in 1930 right on the cusp of the Motion Picture Production Code, or Hayes Code, instituted that same year, which set moral standards for what could and (primarily) could not be shown in a film. The code was very vague but I am confident in saying that a woman in brassiere and panties standing in front of a man with …uh… interest in his eyes would not have made it to theaters had it been filmed a year later. The discomfort is heightened for the viewer as Crawford’s expression illustrates her displeasure with flashing the goods before a potential suitor.
 
     Some sloppy acting moments toward the beginning of the film fade as the picture moves along – one friend marryies a wealthy man only to find he’s a crook, the other is willing to accept an apartment and gifts in lieu of marriage from a man who ultimately weds another.
 
     The inevitable happy ending between Crawford and Montgomery is severely loose in its foundation and leads to a quick cut to “the end” that has the viewer feeling jipped.
 
Sources: Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine
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