Monday 10 March 2008

Female (1933)

Michael Curtiz gets full credit for this version of Warren William's Employees' Entrance though he only directed extra scenes after both William Dieterle and William Wellman had had a go at it. Playing Warren William's role is the excellent though hardly prolific Ruth Chatterton, playing opposite her real life husband of the time, George Brent.

She's Alison Drake of the Drake Motor Car Co and she runs the whole place with emphasis. She also gets up to the sort of philandering that Warren William was so good at, neatly hooking her employees by having them visit her place to talk through sales proposals over dinner and then throwing cushions at the bed and smiling invitingly. When he secretaries get jealous she dismisses them with the same line she dismisses everyone else. 'That'll be all,' she says, and has them reassigned to Montreal.

There's much to enjoy here. It's all very precode, not just having a female CEO or making her work her way through her workforce but in the way she deals with business too. 'Unethical? What's that got to do with business?' she says, and like all the best precodes, I marvel that this was made in 1933. When she gets bored with easy conquests she heads out into the night to pick up one who doesn't know who she is, and accidentally tries it on with the new mechanical genius she's just hired sight unseen.

Naturally this is George Brent, and their first few scenes are genius, but unfortunately the film then cops out with the dynamic and very sure Miss Drake melting away into submissive womanhood in his presence. None of her wiles work on him so she becomes completely lost on how to deal with him and has to respond to his strength by becoming weak. He even gets to bitch at her for refusing a marriage proposal by telling her that women are for making babies and she falls for it. Luckily there's Ferdinand Gottschalk as her right hand man Pettigrew to put her right. Unluckily he can't seem to do it for long enough.

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