Saturday, February 24, 2018

Thoroughly unmodern

A recent watch off my DVR was Millie. The TCM Shop lists on DVD that's clearly out of print because it's on backorder, and one that's supposedly a double-bill with 1931's Indiscreet but for which no artwork is available. Amazon has a few copies of the first DVD available, as well as streaming audio for those who can do it. So I'll reluctantly do a full-length post on it for the benefit of the streamers out there. Well, there are other good reasons to be a bit reluctant about it.

Helen Twelvetrees (her married name, not something a studio imposed on her) plays Millie, who at the beginning of the movie is a hot young girl in a college town who meets rich Jack Maitland (James Hall). They fall in love and get married, moving to the big city. They then have a daughter, but it turns out that Jack is busy with a mistress on the side. When that happens, Millie files for divorce but rather stupidly gives up custody of the child (well, rich Grandma can help take care of the child) and alimony, preferring to live independently.

Time passes, as a title card tells us, "Three years later." Millie becomes quite the party girl, having a series of men, notably newspaperman Tommy (Robert Ames) and older businessman Jimmy (John Halliday). But Millie still wants to be independent. More time passes -- another title card moves the action forward another eight years -- and by now Millie's daughter Connie (Anita Louise) is a hot teenager. One of Jimmy's friends has taken up going to church so he can perv on Connie, and Jimmy follows suit!

Connie is too naïve to get what Jimmy is up to, but when Millie finds out that Jimmy is taking Connie not to Connie's boarding school but stopping off at his cabin on the way, she knows the score. There are shades of the eight zillion versions of Madame X here, except that Connie knows fully well who Millie is when she shoots Jimmy. Millie, however, has no desire to reveal that Jimmy was trying to deflower Connie when the case goes to trial.

Boy is Millie a dated melodrama. In many ways there's not much going on here, as the real action of Millie's shooting Jimmy and going on trial only happens in the last two reels of the movie. Before that it's an hour of partying that doesn't have much of a plot. And Millie's refusal to take alimony is just bizarre.

There was enough stupidity for me in Millie that I found the whole thing maddening. And I haven't even mentioned the trial yet. There are two bright spots in the form of small roles for Joan Blondell and Frank McHugh very early in their careers. But that wasn't enough to save the movie for me. As always, though, you may want to judge for yourself.

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