Friday, September 26, 2008

Hollywood's "good old days"

Last night I watched Kay Francis star as Dr. Monica on TCM as part of the final night of Francis' stint as Star of the Month. What the movie showed is that what we think of as Hollywood's golden age wasn't so golden: the movies had some of the same major flaws as movies of today.

The plot is fairly simple: Francis plays Monica, an obstetrician who would like to adopt a kid and whose husband (Warren William) goes off to Europe to work on a book. One of Francis' best friends, a pilot named Mary played by Jean Muir, is at the ship's departure, and depressed because her lover is on the ship, too. (Yeah, you know who her lover is already.) Worse, Mary's gotten knocked up by her lover! Monica, of course, is too stupid to figure out what's going on, until Mary, just before she gives birth -- despite not looking one bit pregnant -- tries to telephone Warren William, at which point the jig is up.

Now, since we know Monica wanted to adopt a kid, we can see the plot resolution coming a mile away -- or all the way from Vienna, where Monica is planning on going to do some advanced medical study and send her husband a letter telling him the about Mary's kid and that this is the reason she's seeking a divorce from him.

Back in 2007, when Carrie Fisher was the co-host of TCM's The Essentials, there was a clip of her saying, "Just because it's old doesn't mean it's a classic". Dr. Monica is the sort of movie that illustrates this axiom quite well. Sure, it's nice to see stars like Francis who are largely forgotten today, and it's always interesting to see the topics Hollywood could still touch before the Production Code clamped down on the studios in 1934, but we should remember that they made some pretty glaring mistakes in their movies, too.

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