Monday 10 March 2008

Havana Widows (1933)

If this one wasn't made specifically for me I don't know what was. It's a precode for a start, and that's a good start. It stars Joan Blondell, who never failed to delight and who always brought a touch of class to proceedings. She's backed up by Glenda Farrell, another favourite of mine, and those favourites just keep on coming: Guy Kibbee, Allen Jenkins, Lyle Talbot, Frank McHugh, Ruth Donnelly. They keep coming so long that they run past the opening credit screens with pictures and onto the also starring list.

We begin on stage with the chorus line of Iwanna Shakitoff, Russian burlesque girl, which is full of young ladies in outrageous costumes cracking wise and not getting paid much, including our heroines, Mae Knight and Sadie Appleby. Then a former colleague turns up made of money because she's been to Cuba where everyone seems to be a millionaire ripe for picking by local lawyer, Duffy. Needless to say quicker than you can blink the girls are off to Havana to find a rich sugar daddy of their own.

They find an awesome target on day one sleeping in their bed, of all places, believing it to be an empty suite. He's Guy Kibbee, of course, playing a horse breeder called Deacon Jones but Mae falls for his son, Bob, who doesn't have a dime to his name. It's far too long since I've seen a Frank McHugh movie and he's joyously drunk for the entire thing as Duffy the lawyer. Even with a substandard script (lots of laughs but lots of misfires) he's a riot. It also doesn't take long for him to share scenes with Allen Jenkins, playing Mae's sort of boyfriend Herman Brody. He financed the trip to Havana on forged checks so soon has to escape the country himself, naturally ending up in exactly the same place.

Chaos ensues, I think are the next two words expected, but the chaos is pretty tame, the madcap laughs not particularly madcap and the ending rather mild. Still, the pairings of Blondell and Farrell, McHugh and Jenkins, and Kibbee and Donnelly just can't fail, even when the material isn't up to what they do with it, so this ends up being another fun but inconsequential comedy precode.

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