Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hot Saturday

One of the more fun and shocking pre-codes that showed up back in September as part of the Friday Spotlight of pre-Codes was Hot Saturday. It's on TCM again tomorrow morning at 10:30 AM, and is certainly worth a viewing if you haven't seen any of the previous recent TMC showings.

Nancy Carroll stars as Ruth Brock. She's a secretary at the local bank, and in some ways the belle of the bank. At least, all of the male tellers want her. Chief among these young men is Conny Billop (Edward Woods), who's trying to get her to be his date when everybody goes out to the local weekend spot out on the lake. They're planning to go as a group, evne though the town's older residents wonder whether the young folk enjoying themselves this way is such a good idea. That having been said, they wonder even more whether the guy on the other side of the lake is good. That guy is the notorious playboy Romer Sheffield (Cary Grant). He's got a place on the lake, and a girlfriend whom he just got rid of by writing a $10,000 check, which of course is a huge sum of money back in those days. Romer comes into the bank and invites the young people who work there to his place on Saturday afternoon before they all head off to the night spot.

So everybody goes to Romer's lakehouse which looks like it would be a fabulous place to have if you could afford it. And even though the parents' generation all think Romer is a terrible influence, the party the youngsters have at his place that afternoon is fairly innocent with the possible exception of the alcoholic drinks being served, which would have been problematic considering that this was still the Prohibition era. Meanwhile, Romer has shown Ruth a little more of his side of the lake, completely innocently of course. Eventually, they all decamp to the other side of the lake to enjoy the evening. Conny takes Ruth out on a boat and is a total jerk to her, trying to paw her when clearly she doesn't want it. So she runs away when the boat gets to shore again, and this being the opposite side of the lake, she makes her way to Romer's place. They talk fairly innocently for several hours before he takes her home.

When she gets back home, she finds that the family has a guest. That guest is old family friend Bill Fadden (Randolph Scott). He's a minerals engineer who went off to school and now several years later, he's returned on his way to the mountains where he's going to do some geological surveying for an oil company. Bill is unsurprisingly, like every other guy in town, smitten with Ruth, and her parents (William Collier and Jane Darwell) think that he'd be right for Ruth to marry. But that's not going to happen so quickly.

When Romer took Ruth home, a couple of the young people saw him drop her off. And they start gossiping. This being one of those small towns, gossip travels fast, and the lies about what Ruth and Romer are accused of having done spread quickly. Romer doesn't care since he lives outside of town and has the money to go off to the big city; in fact, he doesn't even know about any of the gossip. For Ruth, however, it's tragic, as she gets fired from the bank. Ah, but at least there's Bill, in love with her and willing to marry her immediately to solve all her problems, since his work is generally going to take him away from this crummy old town. So they get engaged and go to that night spot on the lake to celebrate with everybody. Conny, however, feeling himself a spurned lover, decides to gain revene on Ruth by inviting Romer to the little shindig....

The plot synopsis is relatively old-fashioned, in that it's hard to believe 80 years on that a town would immediatley gossip just because one of their young people returned home in the middle of the night. But what makes the movie is a couple of thoroughly pre-Code scenes. The first of these comes early in the movie, when Ruth returns home and wants to change into a new pair of undergarments that she had bought for when she goes out. She discobers that her kid sister Annie (Rose Coghlan) has taken them and is wearing them, and dammit, Ruth is going to get them back, even if she has to tear them off Annie's body! (The scene doesn't go [i]quite[/i] that far.) Later, there's a scene when Ruth goes running off to Bill after news of her "indiscretion" with Romer has made its way around town. Bill has already gone off to the mountains, and when Ruth gets there, it's pouring rain. She collapses, and Bill takes her into his tent to take care of her lest she get pneumonia or something. She wakes up with a blanket covering her and above her head, we get a pan shot of every last stitch of clothing she had on! Bill had strictily honorable intentions, of course, but still it's shocking. And then there's the shock at the end, which I won't give away. Let's just say that the ending of this movie is one that would never have made it to screen after 1934.

Cary Grant gets top billing in this, one of his earliest movies. But it's really Nancy Carroll's movie, and she's a lot of fun to watch. Grant is good, although watching a movie like this you can see why he ended up as the elegant gentleman type in his later movies. Randolph Scott is upright enough, but a bit boring, although that's probably because the script requires him to be more bland. Fans of old movies will recognize Grady Sutton as one of the bank workers. All in all, Hot Saturday is a really surprising pre-Code.

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