Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Florodora Girl

Marion Davies is one of thsoe Hollywood people whose career seems to get assessed less than objectively, thanks in most part to the long affair she had with William Randolph Hearst, who spent years bankrolling movies starring her in an attempt to make her a star. Tomorrow brings a chance to see for yourself how good or bad an actress she was, as TCM is showing The Florodora Girl at 6:15 AM.

Marion Davies plays Daisy, the titular "Florodora Girl", who is actually a chorus girl in a Gay Nineties era Broadway show. If you've seen enough old movies you'll know that, at least according to the movies, a lot of wealthy people went to Broadway shows, with the men -- both the married older men and the young playboys -- eying the pretty chorus girls. The chorus girls, for the most part, seemed to be willing to let these rich guys pursue them, because it sure would have been nice to be on something resembling easy street. Daisy, however, doesn't seem to be doing too well in this milieu. Whether it be because she really wants true love first and money second, or because she just doesn't know the ropes of the way relationships between the chorus girls and the potential sugar daddies works, Daisy hasn't been having the success with the men at the stage door that the other chorus girls are having.

Enter Jack Vibart (Lawrence Gray). He actually seems like Mr. Right for Daisy. Sure, he's rich, but Daisy feels she might truly be in love with him. Unfortunately, all the other chorus girls still think there are set rules as to how they're supposed to be interacting with the rich guys, and they're trying to teach those rules to Daisy. This sounds perfectly reasonable, except that whatever rules work for all the other chorus girls, they don't seem to work for Daisy and Jack, and what seems the sort of relationship where you expect them to wind up together in the final reel.

And then there's another complication: one of the frequent financial crashes of the era. Before the introduction of the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913, the American economy was such that when there were crashes, they tended to be relatively short, but quite a bit more severe than the recessions of today. Jack gets more or less wiped out in one of these crashes. That's not a problem for Daisy, who it turns out really is in love with Jack for who he is, and not for the money that he no longer has so much of. Jack's famliy, however, has a problem with the relationship. If he had married a rich girl and one of them lost their fortunes, well, things happen. But marrying a chorus girl and then both of them winding up poor? The horror!

The Florodora Girl really isn't a bad movie, but it definitely is a product of its time, that being near the beginning of the sound era in 1930. Before 42nd Street, most musicals were very static, and the musical numbers here (including a finale in two-strip Technicolor) show that weakness. The need to capture the sound also saw directors use much less of the camera's range of movement than was the case at the end of the silent era, and that's another area where The Florodora Girl has the same problems that a lot of movies from around 1930 have. And, of course, the plot doesn't seem fairly original. None of this is Marion Davies' fault, and she gives a perfectly capable performance, helping The Florodora Girl rise above the leve of many of the other musical comedies from this era.

The Florodora Girl seems to be not only not available on DVD, but not in TCM's database at all! So, you'll have to catch tomorrow's TCM airing, since this is one that shows up very infrequently.

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