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Monday, 14 January 2008

Shopworn (1932) Nicholas Grinde

Another Barbara Stanwyck precode is always a good thing and this one doesn't disappoint for a few reasons. One is Barbara herself, which is hardly surprising as she was a peach in the precodes. She's Kitty Lane here, who starts the film living in a construction camp with her father who promptly gets himself buried under a stunning controlled explosion for 1932. So off she goes to her aunt and uncle to work as a waitress, where she meets rich student Dr David Livingston (not that one, this one doesn't have a trailing 'e') and they promptly fall hard for each other to the point that David proposes.

Their problem is Mrs Livingston, a bitter hypochondriac nightmare of a mother played by Clara Blandick, best known as good old Auntie Em from The Wizard of Oz. She's a piece of work who can't bear the concept of Kitty as a daughter-in-law and has the able assistance of Judge Forbes, who doesn't shy away from getting her set up with ninety days in the State Home for the Regeneration of Females. Once she gets out she heads off in a different direction and finds her way onto the stage. Six years later she has her own company and back into her life comes David.

He's my real surprise here. Stanwyck was always great, and even more so in the precodes. I'm used to Blandick as a nice old lady but I'm not surprised that she's just as effective as a twisted old woman. The third actress high up th credits is Zasu Pitts as Kitty's Aunt Dot and she's as great as her part is beneath her talents. But David is Regis Toomey, who impressed me here. I'm used to him playing nobodies, supposedly decent but really just there. Here he's still a waste of space but he has some integrity at least and does a surprisingly solid job of rising above, even though his vocal delivery is still far too deliberate.

As a film though, it blisters through the plot like it's playing on double speed, and it's way too quick. Even Barbara Stanwyck can only cram in so much in so short a running time. If anything the speed escalates as time runs out and the ending becomes just a couple of predictable sap scenes.

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