Sunday 8 April 2007

Mannequin (1937) Frank Borzage

No, not the eighties comedy, this is a thirties number with Joan Crawford and Spencer Tracy. Jessie is a hard working factory girl, who's getting a little fed up with earning money for the rest of her family to spend, including good for nothing pop Oscar O'Shea and perennial punk kid brother Leo Gorcey, best known as the usual leader of the East Side Kids. She gets married to young boxer Eddie Miller, and gets treated to champagne an hour later by John L Hennessey, a local boy done good who's back in the neighbourhood to eat gefilte fish done Mandarin style. Yeah.

Anyway John falls for Jessie big time, and Eddie goes nowhere fast. He finally comes up with the idea that the best way to acquire a large sum of money is for Jessie to marry John for six months or so, divorce him and take home the profits to Eddie. Needless to say, Jessie isn't particularly happy about whoring herself out for any length of time, because she's a good girl, and so that's the final straw for the Miller marriage. The thing is that John wants to marry her anyway.

This isn't a bad movie but it's really hamfisted about the way it goes about things. It does work in shades of grey but they're really diverse shades at the opposite ends of the spectrum without any real complex territory being involved. Joan Crawford has played this part a hundred times, so it's no difficult task for her and Spencer Tracy has to keep it railed in this time. Just another film, I guess, for both of them. It seems like a lost opportunity to me, but maybe that's because it's a Crawford movie with Tracy in it rather than the other way around.

A Tracy movie with Crawford in it would be much better, especially as Joan Crawford was best in the precodes and then much later on, while this came in the midst of a bunch of classics: Fury, San Francisco and Libeled Lady in 1936, Captains Courageous before this in 1937 and then Test Pilot and Boys Town in 1938. Two of those brought him Oscars. Why was he slumming it supporting the fading Crawford?

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