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Sunday, 6 January 2008

The Florodora Girl (1930) Harry Beaumont

Luckily this is one of the comedies Marion Davies managed to make while her long term boyfriend William Randolph Hearst pushed her towards period dramas, in which she was far less effective. We're at the Hotel Florodora watching the six Florodora Girls dance, and Daisy Dell is one of them. She's also the only one who can't land a rich beau, which is more than just a little ironic given the circumstances.

'I don't want to marry a man just for his money,' she says, while Marion Davies was seen in real life as the most successful golddigger of her era, something merely cemented later by Citizen Kane. In reality that was hardly fair and a more telling line comes a little later. 'I'd like him if he had nothing,' she says, and that may have been highlighted best in real life when she saved Hearst's bacon at one point by selling some of her property and giving him a million dollar cheque.

Anyway the girls teach Daisy how to acquire herself a a rich one and she promptly acquires Jack Vibart, society gentleman. Unfortunately she hasn't the faintest clue how to play the game and so things hardly go the way the girls intend, or rather it does but for all the wrong reasons. She gives up on trying to fascinate a rich man and wins him through sheer honesty. In fact he has to work to keep her because of family influence.

The story here is really not very substantial and with anyone else in the lead it would probably have vanished for good reason. It's a gift for Davies though, who is more than the star of the show, she's almost the only thing really worth watching. The film highlights just how much she was unique in her era: she was a massively talented clown, probably the first real screwball comedienne and someone surprisingly excellent with accents given that she stuttered in real life.

To me it also backs up my belief that while she was a gorgeous young leading lady, she was also the only one of her time that was willing to show herself looking terrible too. In fact it happens so often in her films that there must be some psychological reason for it. There are quite a lot of such scenes here, most obviously the ones after she fakes drowning and is rescued by Jack. We see her dragged over a 'barrel', turned upside down and everything else you can imagine. Later at a society ball, she makes her way through the whole thing with her dress continually unbuttoning.

It's certainly not the best Marion Davies film out there, but it's far from the worst and she's a joy to watch. There's even a two strip technicolor sequence at the end to relish. Two strip was far from full colour and this is very red two strip, but when it's all we have, I for one won't complain.

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