Loretta Young

Pre-Code Essentials: Employees’ Entrance (1933)

Employees Entrance Loretta Young Warren William

Plot

Like thousands of other people during the Great Depression, Madeline (Loretta Young) is desperate for a job and wants to get one at Monroe Department Store. With nowhere else to go, she spends a night hiding out in the store’s home department so she can apply first thing in the morning. That night, she is discovered by Kurt Anderson (Warren William), the store’s general manager. Desperate for a job, she lets him buy her dinner and spend the night with her.

Little does Madeline realize the kind of man Kurt is. He does get her the job, but he’s the coldest, most ruthless department store manager you’ll ever encounter. Employee loyalty means nothing to him and isn’t above firing a worker after 30 years if he isn’t satisfied with their work anymore. He doesn’t think twice about intentionally destroying a small company when they can’t make a shipment on time. If Kurt thinks you’re hindering the growth of the department store, you’re gone.

After starting her job, Madeline meets and falls in love with fellow store employee Martin (Wallace Ford). Martin is on his way up in the company and Kurt is grooming him to be his right-hand man. But Kurt wants that position to go to an unmarried man because he thinks women are a distraction, so when Kurt and Madeline are secretly married, he has to keep it a secret to keep his job. When the truth comes out during an argument between Madeline and Kurt, Martin is forced into the position of having to choose between his wife and his career.


My Thoughts

If you want to see the finest example of Warren William playing the type of role he was most famous for playing, look no further than Employees’ Entrance.  Kurt is completely appalling. He’s cold, he’s ruthless, he’s calculating, he has little sense of loyalty, and his views on women are horribly offensive. But Warren William plays him brilliantly. This is just Warren William doing what Warren William did best.


The Definitive Pre-Code Moment

Madeline allowing herself to be taken advantage of for the sake of getting a job.

When a colleague walks in and sees Kurt and Polly embracing in his office and exclaims, “What are you doing with that hussy?!”


Why It’s an Essential Pre-Code

Aside from the obvious points about Madeline sleeping her way into her job, Employees’ Entrance is another great example where at one point, you actually do want to like him. When I wrote about this movie a couple of  years ago, I said that Kurt has no redeeming qualities, and I take that statement back. There is a part in the movie where he fights to protect thousands of store employees from losing their jobs. As horrible of a person Kurt is, Depression-era audiences had to at least give him a little bit of credit for that move.

Pre-Code Essentials: Midnight Mary (1933)

Midnight Mary 1933

Plot

Mary Martin (Loretta Young) just can’t get a break in life. She was orphaned as a child and spent time in reform school for a crime she didn’t commit. When she get out, she tries to get her life back on track, but there aren’t any jobs and she ends up getting mixed up with a bunch of gangsters led by Leo Darcy (Ricardo Cortez). She helps him out with their robberies and while they’re planning to rob a casino one night, she catches the eye of Tom Mannering (Franchot Tone). He helps her escape when the police arrive at the casino and they have a wonderful evening together. She tells him that she wants to be on the straight and narrow and he helps send her to secretarial school and gets her a job working at his law firm. Their romance comes to a screeching halt when her criminal past catches up with her and she ends up being sent to jail.

By the time Mary is released, Tom has married another woman, finding a job hasn’t gotten any easier, and it isn’t long before she’s mixed up with Leo’s gang again. When Mary happens to run into Tom one night, Leo becomes extremely jealous and plans to kill him to get rid of the competition. But Mary will stop at nothing to protect Tom and kills Leo before he can get to Tom.


My Thoughts

Midnight Mary is a truly first-rate pre-code drama. Mary is such a wonderful character and Loretta Young has an absolute field day with the role. Loretta Young was one of the great actresses of the pre-code era and this is my favorite of her pre-codes. Fast paced and gritty enough to consistently make me forget that this was an MGM movie, not a Warner Brothers. Is it melodramatic? Absolutely, but it’s high quality melodrama.


The Definitive Pre-Code Moment

When Tom brings Mary back home and definitely has one thing on his mind.


Why It’s an Essential Pre-Code

The pre-code era loved movies about fallen women and Mary is one of the women who falls the hardest. Being able to take a good girl and drag her into a deeply sordid world, but still give her hope for a happy ending is pre-code gold. For another great fallen woman story, don’t miss Clara Bow in Call Her Savage.

My Dinner With Zuzu

For me, no holiday season is complete without a trip (or two) to Detroit’s Redford Theatre.  Going there to see Christmas classics like White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street never fails to get me in the holiday spirit.  Not only is it a treat see my favorite holiday movies on the big screen, the theater is also beautifully decorated and there is always such a nice feeling of community in the audience during those movies.

2013-11-23 19.14.35Christmas came to the Redford a little early this year with three very special screenings of It’s a Wonderful Life. Actress Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey, made appearances at all three shows. But before the final screening on Saturday night, Karolyn joined a small group of VIPs for dinner at the Charles T. Fisher mansion in Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison district.  The Boston-Edison district is full of beautiful old homes, many of them built by or lived in by some of Detroit’s most famous residents including Henry Ford, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy.  My mom and I were among the lucky attendees for this event and we couldn’t have been more thrilled to be there.

The Charles T. Fisher Mansion

The Charles T. Fisher Mansion

Before dinner, Karolyn briefly spoke to us about her career and answered a few questions.  Once dinner got started, Karolyn came around to each table to say hello and answer more questions.  Since Karolyn also starred in The Bishop’s Wife, I couldn’t resist asking what it was like to work with Cary Grant and Loretta Young.  She said Cary was just wonderful, but remembered Loretta as being a bit aloof.  However, she and Loretta started corresponding more when they were a bit older and Loretta would often send her prayer devotionals.  While they were filming The Bishop’s Wife, Loretta put a “curse box” on set and anytime somebody cursed, they had to put money in the box.  When the movie was finished, Loretta donated the money to a Catholic church.

As soon as we were finished with dinner and dessert, we headed over to the Redford Theatre to watch It’s a Wonderful Life.  I saw It’s a Wonderful Life at the Redford a couple of years ago and there was a great crowd then, but this time, it was even better — it was a sold out house!  Before the show, Karolyn signed autographs and took pictures with fans in the lobby.  If you ever have the opportunity to meet Karolyn, don’t be shy to say hello!  She’s extremely approachable and very sweet.

Me with Karolyn.

Me with Karolyn.

When stars make appearances at the Redford, they come onstage and give an introduction before the movie starts.  Typically this lasts about 5 to 10 minutes, but Karolyn went above and beyond and spent about half an hour talking about It’s a Wonderful Life trivia, her memories of making the movie, and what it was like working with Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra.  She didn’t have a single unkind word to say about working on It’s a Wonderful Life.  The experience was very stress-free for her and Jimmy and Frank made it very fun to be on the set.

Photo from the Redford's Facebook page.  This picture perfectly captures the essence of being at the Redford during Christmas.

Photo from the Redford’s Facebook page. This picture perfectly captures the essence of being at the Redford during the Christmas season.

It truly was a wonderful night, pun fully intended.  Being able to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen is always a joyous occasion, but having Karolyn there made it exceptional.  It was the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season.

IAWL Book Autograph2On a side note, I got an autographed copy of Karolyn’s book “Celebrating It’s a Wonderful Life: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On.”  If you’re looking for a gift for someone who is a big fan of the movie, this book would be a great choice.  It’s a very cute little book full of trivia, Karolyn’s memories, recipes inspired by the movie, and comments from fans about what the movie means to them.

Midnight Mary (1933)

Midnight Mary 1933 posterLife hasn’t been easy for Mary Martin (Loretta Young).  Her mother died when she was very young and as a teenager, she was sent to reform school for a crime she didn’t commit.  After getting out of reform school, she tries her hardest to find a job, but there aren’t any jobs to be had.  When Mary’s friend Bunny (Una Merkel) introduces Mary to Leo Darcy (Ricardo Cortez) and his gang, Mary can’t resist the prospect of having food and shelter, so she gets involved with them too.

While Leo and his gang are planning a robbery at a casino one night, Mary catches the eye of lawyer Tom Mannering, Jr. (Franchot Tone) and it’s love at first sight.  He knows that she’s tied up with Leo, but when the police arrive at the casino, he helps Mary escape.  He brings her to his place for dinner and the have a lovely evening together.  Before she leaves, she asks him to help her find a real job so she can go straight.  After she goes to secretarial school, he finds her a job as a secretary in his law firm.  But when they go out to eat one night, a cop recognizes Mary from the night at the casino and arrests her.  She refuses to implicate Leo, so she is sent to jail.

A year later, Mary is a free woman again.  Tom has since married another woman and Mary’s job prospects haven’t gotten any better.  It isn’t long before she’s involved with Leo and his gang again.  When Mary and Leo run into Tom and his wife at a nightclub one night, Leo becomes very jealous of Tom.  Even though Mary does everything in her power to convince him that she doesn’t care about Tom anymore, Leo still wants Tom dead.  He has some of his men try to do the job, but they only succeed in taking out Tom’s friend instead.  Leo decides to do it himself and Mary does the only thing she can do to save Tom — kill Leo first.

I just love Midnight Mary; it’s easily one of my favorite pre-codes.   And how could I not love it?  Midnight Mary is one bright, shining gem of a movie.  It has so many of the qualities that I love about movies from this era.  Fast paced story?  Check. Strong lead character? Check. Scandalous material? Check, check, and check!  But above all else, Loretta Young is fabulous in it.  In fact, the entire cast is wonderful with Franchot Tone, Ricardo Cortez, and Una Merkel, who are all quite perfectly cast in their respective roles.  And I can’t neglect to mention the first-rate direction from William Wellman!  It’s a winner in every respect.

Loose Ankles (1930)

Loose Ankles 1930 PosterWhen Ann Harper’s (Loretta Young) grandmother passes away, the family gathers for the reading of the will.  Ann’s grandmother was a very wealthy woman, so Ann’s family members are all eager to find out what she’s left to them.  Much to everyone’s surprise, most of the estate is left to Ann, but there are strings attached — she will not receive her inheritance until she gets married to a man approved by her repressed aunts Katherine (Ethel Wales) and Sarah (Louise Fazenda).  Not only that, the only way anybody in the family will get their inheritance is if Ann gets married without being involved in any scandals that make the newspaper.

Ann has no desire to get married and resents being forced into it, so she needs to get involved in a scandal and fast.  She puts an ad in the paper looking for a young, attractive, unscrupulous man and when Gil Hayden (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) sees it and decides he’s the man for the job.  He shows up at Ann’s apartment to find Ann and her eager maid ready to set up the big scandal.  But while they’re waiting for the newspaper reporters to arrive, Ann’s aunts come over and try to force Gil into marrying Ann, so Gil jumps out of the window.  However, during their brief time together, Gil and Ann start to fall in love with each other.

When Gil goes home and tells his roommate about his meeting with Ann,   Gil’s roommate decides Gil needs to marry Ann for her money.  One night when Ann is out at a new nightclub, her aunts go to keep an eye on her.  Gil and his roommates are also there.  Gil’s roommates ply Ann’s aunts with alcohol, leaving Gil to spend time with Ann.  But when the club is raided, it turns out Ann’s aunts are the ones most likely to make the scandal sheets.  The only way Ann will save their reputations is if they allow her to marry Gil.

Loose Ankles‘ plot is flimsier than a piece of paper, the acting isn’t good, and at 70 minutes, it still manages to drag on for too long.  But if you’re just in it for the pre-code factor, you might have a little fun with it for that reason alone.  It’s certainly not a great movie, but if you want pre-code material, it at least delivers on that.

What’s on TCM: January 2013

Annex - Young, Loretta (He Stayed for Breakfast)_03Happy new year, everyone!  With winter officially underway, it’s very tempting to spend every night at home watching movies with a cup of hot chocolate, and TCM has plenty of reasons to do just that.

Loretta Young is January’s Star of the Month, in honor of her 100th birthday, and will be spotlighted every Wednesday night this month.  If you’re a fan of pre-codes, you’re bound to adore the first two Loretta Young nights.  I tend to enjoy heist films, so I’m really looking forward to every Tuesday night this month being dedicated to movies about big robberies.

Another star who would be celebrating their 100th birthday this month is Danny Kaye.  If you only know him from White Christmas, be sure to tune in on January 20th because TCM will be playing his movies for a full 24 hours, including an episode of The Danny Kaye Show and an interview he did on The Dick Cavett Show.

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Platinum Blonde (1931)

When a showgirl sues Michael Schuyler (Donald Dillaway), part of a very prominent social family, for breach of promise, reporter Stew Smith (Robert Williams) is sent to cover the story.  The Schuyler family desperately wants to keep the scandal out of the papers, so they try bribing the reporters to not cover the story.  Ann Schuyler (Jean Harlow) also tries to charm him out of running the story, but Stew is one reporter who can’t be bought and runs the story anyway.

After the scandal hits the papers, Stew stops by the Schuyler estate.  Not to apologize, but to return a book he had taken with him while he was there.  Inside of it, he found some love letters the show girl was planning to use to blackmail Michael into giving her more money, and he knew the family would want those back.  Stew knows the difference between news and blackmail and doesn’t want any part of the latter.  Ann offers him a $5,000 reward, but he turns it down and the two of them end up having lunch together.

Ann and Stew get along very well and continue seeing each other.  They very quickly elope, to the shock of everyone, especially Gallagher (Loretta Young), Stew’s best friend and secret admirer.  Ann’s family disapproves of her marrying someone from a lower class, but she reassures them that she’s going to turn him into the perfect gentleman.  Many of Stew’s friends give him a hard time about being a kept man.  He wants Ann to move into his apartment and they can live off of his salary, but instead, they end up living in a wing of the Schuyler family estate and Stew has a very hard time adjusting to Ann’s way of life.

Stew and Ann’s worlds collide during a party the Schuylers throw for a Spanish embassador.  Gallagher is sent to cover the story for the paper and Ann isn’t happy to discover that her husband’s best friend is a woman.  Not only that, when a rival reporter shows up to offer Stew his own column under the condition that he uses the byline “Ann Schuyler’s Husband,” Stew punches the reporter.  Sure enough, the fight lands them on the front page of the paper.

The Schuylers are absolutely horrified by the whole event, but Ann sticks by Stew and encourages him to write a play.  One night, Stew skips one of Ann’s many society events to work on the play.  But when he needs a little inspiration, he invites Gallagher and some of his other friends to come over, and before he knows it, there’s a wild party going on.  Despite all the crazy antics going on around them, Gallagher and Stew manage to come up with the idea of doing a play about his marriage.  However, when the Schuylers come home, they aren’t happy about his little party.  Ann gets into a fight with Stew and he decides he wants out of this marriage.  He ends up back in his old apartment and finishing his play with Gallagher by his side.

I really loved Platinum Blonde, despite its forced ending.  However, the title felt a little inappropriate to me.  The first time I saw it, with a title like that, I was expecting a madcap comedy like Bombshell.  In reality, it’s a smart look at the power of social class differences that’s more on the witty side than the madcap.  Frank Capra’s direction and a strong script serve as a rock-solid foundation for Harlow, Williams, Young, and a delightful supporting cast to bring it to an even higher level.

I absolutely adored Robert Williams in it, who unfortunately died a short time after Platinum Blonde was released.  He only made a handful of movies during his life and showed great promise in Platinum Blonde, it’s really too bad that he didn’t get to have a more prolific film career.