After leaving the Marines, Bill Keller (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) and Toodles Cooper (Frank McHugh) head to New York, thinking they have jobs as commercial pilots lined up. But when they arrive, it turns out the company has gone out of business. Bill and Toodles have no other choice but to stay and look for jobs, but the Depression, there aren’t many jobs to be found. One day, Bill meets Patricia “Alabama” Kent (Bette Davis), who is also struggling to find work. She and Bill hit it off and he invites her to live with him and Toodles.
Bill finally gets a break when he finds a company looking for people to skydive an audience. His stunt doesn’t go exactly as planned so that’s the end of that gig. But he takes his paycheck, buys a chauffeur’s uniform, and gets a job driving Mrs. Newberry (Claire Dodd) around. Mrs. Newberry is the girlfriend of gangster Kurt Weber (Leo Carrillo) and Kurt sees that Bill could potentially be an asset to his organization. But after Bill gets into some trouble smuggling drugs into Canada, Bill decides he needs to get out of the racket before it’s too late.
To be perfectly honest, my main reason for wanting to see Parachute Jumper is because Bette Davis hated that movie with a passion. She spent years badmouthing that movie at any chance she got. In What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, a clip of Parachute Jumper was used to show what a lousy actress Jane Hudson was. Now that I’ve finally seen the infamous Parachute Jumper for myself, I can see why Bette loathed it. The southern accent she used in it is hardly one of her finest acting moments. Not only is Bette not very good in it, the story is forgettable. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Frank McHugh aren’t much more memorable, either. It’s not quite as bad as Bette made it out to be; I’ve certainly seen far worse movies. But it’s a movie that I’d only recommend if you really want to watch every movie Bette Davis was ever in.
Vicki Wallace (Joan Blondell) gets a real kick out of antagonizing her husband Tony (Warren William). She does it all in good fun, but one night, she pushes Tony too far and he slaps her. Vicki decides she wants a divorce, and gets her friend Vernon Thorpe (Edward Everett Horton) to handle it for her. But before the ink on the divorce papers is dry, Vicki marries Vernon.
Vicki can’t resist teasing Vernon, either, and Vernon is starting to see why Tony smacked her. If he doesn’t like something, Vicki makes a point to do it. Vernon doesn’t like Vicki to wear revealing clothes so she buys a very revealing evening gown. He doesn’t like her still being friendly with Tony, so of course she spends plenty of time with him. When Vernon finally slaps her too, Vicki decides to get back together with Tony.
Considering its cast, I had fairly high hopes for Smarty. Unfortunately, the plot just is odd and I had a hard time getting into it. It’s really too bad that I didn’t like the plot because the cast had great chemistry and still managed to put on a heck of a show. I really wish I could see this exact same cast in a different movie because with better material, they could have made a pretty great comedy.
When Dan (William Powell) meets Joan (Kay Francis) in a bar in Hong Kong, it’s love at first sight. They have a drink together, but end up going their separate ways. What neither of them realizes is that the other doesn’t have much time to live. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but Joan is extremely sick. She’s about to set sail for San Francisco so she can go to a sanitarium, but there’s a good chance she won’t survive the trip. Dan is a murderer on the run from the law and gets arrested by Steve Burke (Warren Hymer) as soon as he leaves the bar that night. Steve’s going to take Dan back to San Francisco where he will be executed.
As fate would have it, Dan and Joan wind up on the same boat to San Francisco. Joan’s doctor wants her to spend the trip resting, but she knows she doesn’t have much time left so she wants to live it up while she can. When she finds out Dan is on board and has been looking for her, she ignores the doctor’s orders and spends all the time she can with Dan. She remains in the dark about his criminal background and he has no idea about her illness, but they are madly in love with each other. Dan is able to spend so much time with Joan thanks to some help from his criminal friends Skippy (Frank McHugh) and Betty (Aline McMahon). Betty is on board posing as a countess so she and Skippy keep distracting Steve so that Dan can be with Joan. But Betty ends up spending so much time with Steve that they also end up falling in love.
When the ship makes a stop in Honolulu, Dan and Joan spend an unforgettable day ashore together and Dan wants to come clean to her about his past. But just as he’s about to break the news, she faints and he takes her back to the ship. Her doctor warns Dan that any more shocking news could kill her, so Dan keeps his secret. She ends up discovering the truth about Dan just before the ship docks in San Francisco and, naturally, she’s surprised. But that doesn’t stop her from saying goodbye to Dan and agreeing to meet him at a bar in Mexico on New Year’s Eve, even though they both know they won’t be able to keep the date.
What’s not to like about One Way Passage? Kay Francis and William Powell were perfection in it. Their chemistry together was superb and both of them give excellent performances. Powell in particular gives one of the best performances of his career. Aline McMahon and Frank McHugh make the supporting cast every bit as memorable as Powell and Francis. I loved the very dreamlike atmosphere of the movie. One Way Passage is a prime example of those early 1930s gems that aren’t very long, but make every single second count. If you haven’t already seen it, definitely be sure to keep an eye out for it. I know I wish I had seen it sooner.