Saturday, September 27, 2014

Loose Ankles

So yesterday, as part of TCM's Friday Night Spotlight of pre-Code marathons, I finally got around to seeing Loose Ankles. It's a thoroughly warped movie, but it's the sort of warped pre-Code style that turns out to be so much fun to watch.

Loretta Young, who would have been about 17 years old at the time this movie was made, stars as Ann Harper, the granddaughter of a very wealthy woman who is recently deceased and whose will is about to be read out. The relatives for the most part have a lot of money already, considering the house Ann lives in, but everybody bot Ann, and to a lesser extent her cousin Betty (Inez Courtney) want their inheritance as quickly as possible. Grandma must have seen that coming, because she put a clause in her will that's probably not quite legal, but which drives the action for the rest of the movie, more or less. Ann has to marry somebody who is suitable to her uncle Major Rupert (Otis Harlan) and her spinster aunts Sarah (Louise Fazenda) and Katharine (Ethel Wales) in order for everybody to get their inheritances. And if Ann does anything scandalous that gets the family name in the newspapers in a bad way, the estate goes to an animal hospital.

Since Ann doesn't really care about the money, she decides she's going to sabotage things for everybody else. (To be fair, why should her happiness in love be dependent on what everybody else wants so that they can get their hands on Grandma's money?) So she calls up one of the newspapers and takes out a classified ad looking for a young man who's suitably unscrupulous! If it sounds nuts, it is, but the movie is about to get more nuts. Cut to a shot of two guys doing their morning routine in the bathroom, with one taking a bath and the other shaving. Terry (Norman Selby) and Andy (Eddie Nugent) are professional escorts, who make a meager living by going out with older women looking for companionship in the evenings and being gentlemen to the ladies. They both see this ad and would like to take part in what seems like an interesting job, but they've got an even better idea: their roommate Gil (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) is terrible at the escort thing, so they set him up with Ann. Gil needs the experience, apparently.

So Gil and Ann meet at her place, and to be honest neither of them really has a good idea of how to be scandalous. Amazingly, Ann's maid Agnes (Daphne Pollard) claims she's had an indiscretion in her earlier days, and knows just how to cause a scandal. Get Gil out of his clothes! Really, that's her idea! Ann gets Gil out of his jacket, bow tie, and pants, at which point the Major and his two sisters come in, forcing Gil to hide in a closet. When they eventually discover him, he jumps out a window with Ann not even knowing his name.

Enter thr ourth roommate, the suave-looking but obvious bad guy Linton (Raymond Keane). He sees the ad and wants in on the job, so he goes to see Ann, not knowing that his other roommates have already done so. Ann and Betty fished tickets to a speakeasy out of Gil's jacket, so they're going to go there if they can get a man to escort them, unaccompanied women not being allowed in. They need a man and Linton's there, so he'll take them. Meanwhile, the Major is a Prohibitionist, this being 1930, so he plans to have the place raided, not knowing that his niece Ann is going to be there. Since that would cause a scandal, the two spinster aunts go with the intention of getting Ann out of the place, but they don't have a man to accompany them into the joint. Terry and Andy are there, but with no ticket in, so when they spot the spinsters they offer to be the male accompaniment. Gil has gotten in, too....

The basic plot makes a bit of sense, but the way it unfolds on the screen is just nuts and completely detached from reality. That having been said, the movie is immensely entertaining, even if you can see many of the punchlines coming from a mile away. You also know the movie is going to have a happy ending, although how it gets there is part of the fun. Loose Ankles is one of those things that has no right being considered anything more than quickly churned out entertainment. But damn if it isn't terribly fun.

Loose Ankles is available on DVD from the TCM Shop.

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