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The Girl from Missouri

Dullsville

Girl From Missouri (1934)

     I was excited to come across a pairing of Jean Harlow and Franchot Tone in a romantic flick as I enjoy Harlow and find Tone quite charming, but their pairing in The Girl From Missouri produced poor results on the acting front.

     Both Harlow as Eadie and Tone as Tom gave amateurish performances in this story of a girl who wants nothing more than to marry with her virtue in tact. Eadie leaves her home in Missouri because the booze joint her mother and step-father run will eventually create a fate similar, I suspect, to that which befell Barbara Stanwyck‘s character in Baby Face. In New York with her pal Kitty (Patsy Kelly), the two work as chorus girls while Eadie plots how to land a millionaire husband. Performing at the party of one such wealthy gent, Eadie wrangles a suspiciously easy proposal from host Frank Cousins (Lewis Stone), who gives the girl ruby cufflinks to make into an engagement ring. Once she is out of the room, Cousins shoots himself over financial trouble, thus explaining his willingness to “marry” the dame. Eadie and Kitty rush into the room and are held there as police search for the missing rubies. Another millionaire, T.R. Page (Lionel Barrymore), who somehow knows the girls are innocent of the theft, sneaks the gems out of Eadie’s stocking and returns them to the girl later.

     The next day, Eadie is on the hunt for T.R.’s hand in marriage and follows him to Palm Beach after he gives her some dough on which to get by. There she runs into Tom, who happens to be T.R.’s son, but she does not know that at first, so she resist him. Despite everyone’s suspicions, Eadie is not a gold digger but merely someone who wants a proper chance in life for her children. When Tom locks her in his room one evening and tries to put the moves on her, she convinces him that she is on the level about being “clean”. They love each other but Tom has had sex on the brain more so than marriage. When he does come around to the idea, his father superficially agrees to the union but conspires with the district attorney and newspapermen to frame Eadie not only for stealing the rubies but for having an affair with a stranger.

     So the concept is Eadie is a girl who everyone thinks is a hussy but who really just wants to get married without compromising her virginity. Her forward approach with men and flashy looks suggest just what everyone thinks, but her words are the only thing insisting otherwise. She is supposed to be in love with Tom, but neither actor convinced me. Tom is first introduced as on the phone with a sweetheart whom he quickly hangs up on when he spots Eadie, so naturally we think he is a playboy. Indeed, all he really wants from the blonde is a good time until he finds out she is “pure”, which is apparently all it takes to be marriage material, never mind the social boundaries or her continually deteriorating reputation.

     There is a cute scene when Tom throws a drunk Eadie in the shower and gets in himself, hat suit and all, and tells her they are going to get married immediately. The moment seems romantic and sexy, but it is cut short before anything profound can be said. This might have been the result of Production Code restrictions. The Girl from Missouri was the subject of many re-shoots and re-editing because of the decency code that was now in full enforcement. The title too underwent many changes before landing on the bland Girl from Missouri. At first it was “Eadie is a Lady” based on a popular song at the time, the lyrics of which suggested the opposite of the title. The Hayes Office also felt the option of “100% Pure” suggested otherwise, and also nixed “Born to be Kissed” as too suggestive.

     Despite the code restrictions that perhaps dampened the quality of the story, the actors have no excuse for their performances. Harlow is a poor crier and both she and Tone had moments of lousy acting that is not present in most of their work. It just goes to show you cannot pair two good-looking people together and expect magic.

Source: Robert Osborne

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No More Ladies

Gasser

No More Ladies (1935)

      No More Ladies is the first in what has become an inadvertent sequence of movies viewed over the past day that depict various aspects of the strains on married life. For our first, the trauma is infidelity. Look for the next two over the weekend: The Palm Beach Story and Love Crazy.

     Robert Montgomery in his typical romantic roles as an uppercrust suitor always managed to woo me whether he was playing a gent or a cad, but in No More Ladies my current favorite male actor managed to turn me away. Montgomery portrays a playboy — not atypical for him — who defies his opinions on marriage to wed Joan Crawford‘s Marcia. Montgomery’s Sherry cannot, however, avoid temptation in the form of a banjo player played by Gail Patrick, whom I have only seen as the bitch in My Man Godfrey (she’s not making a good name for herself with me).

     Sherry initially lies about his whereabouts but eventually admits his crime with a mere “yes” meant to intimate he slept with the woman. Knowing her husband will likely be a repeat offender, Marcia arranges a strange party that invites the banjo player, a man whose wife Sherry stole away only to drop her (Franchot Tone), and that wife and her new husband. The set up makes for an incredibly awkward situation for all attendees except Marcia who plays like she could not care less.

     Montgomery plays Sherry, the asshole, to a T. The man seems to have no remorse over is unfaithful deeds, which served to send me, like Marcia toward the arms of Tone’s character. Marcia’s behavior during the course of this party and beyond serves to truly teach Sherry a lesson leaving us with a happy ending but no real guarantee that the groom will not stray again.

     No More Ladies is certainly a drama with only occasional comic relief. It is a tragic analysis of the sorts of marriages that were oft portrayed on the screen at this time. Divorce was a fashionable answer to too hastily officiated marriages, but our characters are reluctant to go mainstream in their approach. Even before she devises her revenge scheme, Marcia says she has no intention of divorcing Sherry against her grandmother’s advice. It also perhaps shines a light on the double standard that seemed to exist with extramarital affairs. A mistress for the man is no strange occurence and one with which a wife must live, but allow the woman to take on a superfluous suitor and the husband is shocked and awakened to the harm of fooling about.

     I should note that I inadvertently marked No More Ladies as one I had already seen on the Robert Montgomery Checklist. Lucky for me when it aired this week on TCM, I happened to turn on the TV just in time to catch it from the start.

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