Monday, March 14, 2016

The Girl From Missouri

Over the weekend, I watched The Girl From Missouri, having recorded it on my DVD as part of the TCM salute to Jean Harlow a week earlier. It seems to have gotten a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive, since it's availalbe at Amazon. (Strangely enough, the TCM Shop lists it as being on back order.) So I can feel comfortable doing a full-length post on it here even though I don't think it's on the TCM schedule again any time soon.

Jean Harlow of course plays the titular girl from Missouri, although she doesn't spend much of the movie in Missouri. It's only the opening scene that's set there. Harlow plays Eadie, a young woman whose father died at some point in the past and whose mother apparently went through a succession of men. Mom, along with the current stepfather, run what is presumably a roadhouse-type night spot, but that's not the type of life for Eadie. So her friend Kitty (Patsy Kelly) is going to help her escape from the roadhouse, and take a train to New York.

Eadie intends to find a rich man and marry him, since that's the best way to get money. Even if there's love, Eadie still feels she can make it work. So she takes a job as a show girl, begging her boss to let her be part of the show that's going to a private party being given by the wealthy Frank Cousins (Lewis Stone). Boss relents and Eadie eventually wangles her way into Cousins' private office, where he eventually offers her his ruby cufflinks as a sort of engagement gift. What she doesn't know is that Cousins is actually bankrupt, and he's giving her those cufflinks as a parting gift since he plans to commit suicide! The police notice that the cufflinks are missing, and it's going to be Eadie's word against common sense as to how she got those cufflinks. Still, another rich man, banker T.R. Paige (Lionel Barrymore) helps her out, and even gives her some money to get by.

Eadie's plan, after Cousins offs himself, is to snare Paige! So she takes that money and follows him down to Palm Beach. When she goes to Paige's office in Palm Beach, she meets a young man who is interested in her, although the feeling isn't mutual. Still, the young man says he can get Eadie onto Paige's yacht. It turns out that the young man is in fact T.R. Paige, Jr. (Franchot Tone). He doesn't care about Eadie's background, since he believes she's really got a heart of gold, and dammit, he's going to keep pursuing her until she finally says yes. Dad, however, is none too happy about it, and does everything he can to put the kibosh on it....

The Girl From Missouri was released in August, 1934, about a month after Joe Breen started enforcing the stricter Production Code. That, I think, is to the movie's detriment. Harlow tries, but she's faced with material that doesn't really seem to know what to do with itself. In particular, it can't decide whether it wants to be a drama or a comedy. Franchot Tone is more than suitable as the young playboy type who falls for Eadie, and Patsy Kelly provides comic relief without going over the top. Barrymore is probably the weakest of the four leads here.

All in all, I think The Girl From Missouri is a movie that Jean Harlow fans will like. But if I were going to introduce people to the movies of Jean Harlow, I can think of several other movies I'd pick first.

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