Sunday, August 30, 2009

Three Plus One

We enjoyed all of the "3 women" movies we've been watching, so we queued up the classic Three on a Match on a double bill with Female.

Three on a Match was directed by Mervyn LeRoy (Little Caesar, I Was a Fugitive from the Chain Gang) in 1932, starring:
  • Betty Davis, as the smartest girl from PS32
  • Ann Dvorak, as the prettiest
  • Joan Blondell, as the bad girl
We see them in school, then 10 years pass. One day, they all meet up again. Blondell is out of reform school, and working on the stage. Davis is eking out a living as a stenographer. And Dvorak has a rich lawyer for a husband, a chauffeur and a child. Yet, she isn't truly happy. And, yes, this is the scene where they light three cigarettes with one match. Bad luck, or a scheme to sell more matches?

We had assumed we would see the trials and troubles of all three women, but actually, this is mainly Dvorak's show. She leaves her husband and takes up with a gambler, drinking and neglecting her son. Her friends take the son back to her rich husband (Warren William, Satan Met a Lady) and Blondell starts romancing him, while Davis starts working for him as secretary/governess. So, everybody's happy?

No, Dvorak's boyfriend (Lyle Talbot) is involved with gangsters Edward Arnold and Humphrey Bogart. Dvorak seems to be doing dope. Things will not end well for her.

Dvorak is very good in this. She goes downhill fast, and looks terrible in the last scenes, very realistic. Blondell plays her usual wisecracker, and Davis is almost absent, only reacting to the others, and not much of that. That's fine, she's never been my favorite.

Then, Female, 1933, directed by Michael Curtiz (yes, Casablanca's Curtiz). It stars Ruth Chatterton as the owner of a large automobile manufacturer. She works hard, talks fast, and invites attractive young workers up to her place for dinner - to "discuss their ideas". Afterwards, if they try to take advantage of their relationship to the boss, they are transferred to Montreal.

Naturally, she will fall for the guy who resists her advances, and give up her position to raise a family. However, she manages to do it with her dignity intact, and make it look like she got what she wanted. A fun movie.

In conclusion, two "women's pictures" by big name directors that have more guts, humor and style than we had a right to expect.

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