Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dance, Fools, Dance

The movie I watched off my DVR this morning because it's available on DVD from the Warner Archive is Dance, Fools, Dance.

Joan Crawford plays Bonnie Jordan, daughter in a wealthy family, with a brother Rodney (William Bakewell). Neither of them has had to do a day of work in their life and live a decadent life of parties with their wealthy friends on Dad's yacht, even going swimming in just their undies which they can do since this is a pre-Code movie. Of course, since the movie was released in 1931, you know all of this intro is set in the past and that the stock market crash of 1929 is going to come.

Sure enough, that crash comes, and Dad, who trades stocks on the floor of the exchange, is wiped out. Not only that, he suffers a fatal heart attack on the floor of the exchange! Poor Bonnie and Rodney are told by the family's attorny that not only was Dad wiped out, he wasn't even able to save any money for the two kids in any sort of trust fund to leave the children set up in case of a situation like this. They're both going to have to work. Well, maybe not Bonnie; she's got Bob (Lester Vail) who's willing to marry her and give her a life of comfort.

But Bonnie won't have that, wanting to make her way in the world honestly. She decides to get a job at the newspaper, working her way up from the bottom writing crappy human interest stories. Poor woman. Rodney, meanwhile, hasn't been able to get any honest work, and since he's got a tab with the bootleggers (remember, this is the Prohibition era), he decides to meet up with the gangster Jake Luva (Clark Gable) and become a distributor and do other odd jobs for Jake.

One of those odd jobs involves driving the getaway car in a rub-out that's basically the St. Valentine's Day Massacre redux. But Rodney never knew that he was going to get into anything like this, and he can't stomach it. Worse, he can't keep his mouth shot. At the bar in Jake's nightclub, Rodney spills the beans to a lookout man who in fact isn't the lookout, but a veteran reporter on the newspaper where Bonnie works. Jake orders Rodney to shoot the reporter dead.

The newspaper knows fully well Jake's gang is involved, but can't get the goods. So they get an idea, which is to have Bonnie go undercover and work at Jake's nightclub to find out who really killed their reporter. All the threads eventually come together.

Dance, Fools, Dance is a moderately entertaining movie. There are other better pre-Codes that I would recommend if I were trying to get people interested in pre-Codes. But Crawford and Gable are both worth watching in this one. Crawford even gets to dance (for some values of dancing) in a number at the nightclub, where Bob finds out what Bonnie has been doing for herself. The story, however, takes a while to get going, as almost half of the movie goes by before the real action begins. And it ends a bit too abruptly. However, this first pairing of Crawford and Gable proved to be a big success, which is why we get a bunch of later movies teaming the two.

Dance, Fools, Dance is yet another of those movies which would be well-served with a release on one of those four-film sets TCM likes to hawk. Unfortunately, it only seems to be available on a standalone Warner Archive DVD.

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