Bonnie Jordan (Joan Crawford) and her brother Rodney (William Bakewell) were enjoying living the high life on their father’s dime. But when the stock market crashes, the family not only loses all their money, they also lose their father. Bonnie and Jordan are left with nothing and have no other choice but to get jobs. Bonnie gets a job as a reporter for The New York Star while Rodney starts working with infamous bootlegger Jake Luva (Clark Gable). Bonnie takes her new social standing in stride and realizes she doesn’t even miss her old crowd. She learns to love her job and makes friends with the paper’s star reporter Bert Scranton (Cliff Edwards). Bonnie is unaware of what her brother’s job really is until some bootleggers get shot. While Bert is investigating the story for the paper, he talks to Rodney, who accidentally admits that Luva’s gang was involved in the shooting. When Luva finds out about it, he handles it in true gangster style: he tells Rodney to either kill Bert or he will be killed. Of course, Rodney chooses to save himself.
The newspaper editor is devastated over the loss of his best reporter and assigns Bonnie to go undercover to find out who killed Bert. She gets a job dancing at Luva’s nightclub, much to the surprise of Rodney, their old circle of friends, and her ex-boyfriend Bob Townsend. But Luva takes a shine to Bonnie and invites her back to his apartment. While she’s there, she answers his phone to find Rodney on the other end of the line. At last, she knows just how involved with Luva’s gang Rodney is. Rodney shows up at the apartment and gets into a huge argument with Luva. He tries to kill Luva to save Bonnie, but Luva also kills Rodney. Bonnie sure got her story, all right. She decides it will be her last story for the paper, but as she’s leaving the offices, her ex-boyfriend Bob shows up to propose to her. He’d proposed earlier, but he didn’t really love her then. This time he means it.
Dance, Fools, Dance wasn’t meant to win any Academy Awards, but it sure was entertaining from beginning to end. Joan’s performance is pretty solid and it’s always nice to see her paired with Clark Gable. It’s also always fun to get a chance to see Joan dance, because she really was a fantastic dancer:
Clark Gable made a pretty good gangster and I liked William Bakewell as Rodney. The story about what happens when one sibling takes legitimate jobs and another turns to crime reminded me a lot of The Public Enemy and there’s no denying that The Public Enemy had the more layered and developed story of the two. But just because it isn’t in the same league as The Public Enemy certainly doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie, it’s really a great little jewel of the pre-code era.