Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Jewel Robbery

One of the movies that TCM showed in September as part of the Star of the Month salute to Kay Francis is Jewel Robbery. I hadn't seen it before, so I couldn't recommend it at the time. But having seen it, I can say that it's a hoot. And it's showing again tomorrow at 6:15 AM ET.

Kay Francis plays the female lead, as a woman married to a Viennese baron but feeling trapped in a loveless marriage. She wants some excitement in her marriage, and gets it when one day, while shopping a jewelry shop, in walks a notorious jewel thief played by William Powell. Immediately, she feels smitten by Powell, and wants to be with him instead of her crummy husband.

The movie was made in 1932, and as such the plot is both a bit old-fashioned and influenced by the fact the Production Code was not yet being enforced. It doesn't take long at all for the police to figure out who their man is, and get him into a stake-out, which is typical for the shorter movies of the early 1930s. On the other hand, there's also the intimation that crime does pay.

More interesting, however, is the actual jewel robbery. Powell gives his victims cigaretts that are filled with wacky tabacky, although the script never actually uses any words to describe it that way -- and espcially not the word marijuana. The cigarettes make their smokers giddy, to the point that Powell leaves a pack with the police, and when they smoke them, the police start making prank phone calls! One of the victims gets sleepy, and Powell tells that victim that when he wakes up, he'll be hungry!

Jewel Robbery is the sort of movie that they don't make any more, and probably can't make any more, largely because for all the shock it would have caused in 1932, it would be seen as quite tame today. The other consequence of this is that Jewel Robbery isn't available on DVD, either. Perhaps with TCM's Star of the Month treatment of Kay Francis, Warner Home Video will finally get their act together and release more of her movies to DVD.

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