Hugh Herbert

Kansas City Princess

Kansas City Princess (1934)

Rosie (Joan Blondell) and Marie (Glenda Farrell) are two manicurists from Kansas City. Rosie has been seeing a gangster who goes by the name of Dynamite (Robert Armstrong) and just before he leaves for St. Louis, he gives Rosie an engagement ring. While Dynamite is out of town, Marie, who thinks Rosie could do better, encourages Rosie to go out with one of their rich clients. Rosie reluctantly goes along with it and the whole thing goes horribly wrong when it turns out her date is also a criminal who steals her engagement ring. Things get even worse when Rosie hears that Dynamite is coming back to town earlier than expected so she doesn’t even have time to fix things.

Rosie and Marie know Dynamite will be furious when he finds out what’s happened, so they disguise themselves as members of the Outdoor Girls of America and get on a train headed to New York. But Dynamite finds out what’s going on before they can leave the station so he follows them to New York. Once in New York, Rosie and Marie hop in a cab with two businessmen and stick with them as they board a ship headed to Paris with Dynamite hot on their trail.

While on the ship, Dynamite meets millionaire Junior Ashcraft (Hugh Herbert), who is heading to Paris to put an end to his wife’s affair. When Marie and Rosie hear about a rich man being on board, they can’t resist posing as manicurists so they can try to play him. The plan falls flat when Junior reveals the truth, but Junior is still willing to help the ladies out. Once they get to Paris, Junior comes up with a plan to stop his wife’s affair by having Rose pose as her lover’s boyfriend. Little does he know his wife and the detective he’s hired to follow her have plans of their own.

Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell are two of my favorite sassy, fast-talking pre-code actresses so any movie that features both of them is going to be very intriguing to me. Kansas City Princess starts out being so much of what I love about many Warner Brothers pre-codes — fast-paced, funny, and full of snappy dialogue — but, unfortunately, the movie loses a lot of momentum about halfway through. Considering how many things Kansas City Princess had working in its favor and it did start out looking promising, the fact that it failed to hold my interest for 64 minutes was pretty disappointing. Not even the fabulous chemistry of Blondell and Farrell could save it. They did the best they could with what they had to work with, it’s just they didn’t have much to work with.

Merry Wives of Reno (1934)

Frank and Madge Hammond (Donald Woods and Margaret Lindsay, respectively) have been married for one year and couldn’t be happier together.  However, all of that comes to an end on the day of their first anniversary.  Madge had made a special dinner that night, but then Frank has to go see Bunny Fitch (Glenda Farrell) about selling her a boat.  But when he gets to her apartment, he quickly realizes she’s not interested in a boat, it’s him she’s interested in. And with her husband Colonel J. Kingsley Fitch (Hugh Herbert) out of town, she’s looking for some company.

While Frank is trying to fight off Bunny’s advances, Tom Fraser (Guy Kibbee) comes by to see Bunny and Frank ends up sneaking out down the fire escape, leaving behind his new coat, an anniversary present from Madge.  What Frank doesn’t realize is that Tom is actually his neighbor.  Tom and his wife Lois (Ruth Donnelly) aren’t nearly as happily married as Frank and Madge and Lois is well aware of his womanizing, heavy-drinking tendencies.  But then Colonel Fitch comes home unexpectedly early and Tom also ends up leaving through the fire escape, also leaving his coat behind.  When the Colonel asks about the extra coats, Bunny tries to make him think they’re his.

When Madge asks Frank where his coat is, he says he gave it to a homeless person.  Madge is skeptical, but when she goes to the salon and overhears Bunny telling the real story, she decides then and there that she wants a divorce and gets on the train to Reno. It just so happens that Lois, Bunny, and the Colonel are all on the same train and Tom and Frank aren’t far behind them. Once everyone makes it to Reno, the states of each of their marriages are constantly up in the air.  But when Bunny realizes that she’s responsible for all of their heartaches, she comes up with a scheme to set everything right again.

If you love extremely fast-paced screwball comedies, Merry Wives of Reno should be right up your alley.  This is the kind of movie that I had to watch twice to fully catch everything. But this is a movie I didn’t want to tear myself away from for more than a few seconds at a time because it’s an absolute riot.  Not only is it hilarious, but the cast is perfect.  Guy Kibbee was hilarious in it and who doesn’t love a wise-cracking Glenda Farrell?  It’s too bad more people don’t seem to know about Merry Wives of Reno (as of writing this, it only has 4 reviews on IMDB and doesn’t have a Wikipedia page), because it’s a real gem.  Keep an eye out for this one because you’ll be in for 64 minutes of total fun.