SPOTLIGHT: Youthful Pre-Code Young (I)

Welcome to a new Film Friday and the start of our spotlight series on the Pre-Code work of the beautiful Loretta Young (1913-2000), whose work we’ve never covered before here on Film Friday! We’re kicking things off today with…

 

Loose Ankles (1930)

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A young woman will inherit a million dollars if she marries well. Starring Loretta Young and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Continuity and dialogue by Gene Towne. From the play by Sam Janney. Directed by Ted Wilde.

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“Ann Harper is bequeathed $1 million provided that she marry a man who meets the approval of her Aunts Sarah and Katherine. Ann and her cousin Betty advertise for a man willing to undergo a temporary marriage for a cash consideration; Gil Hayden answers the advertisement, meets Ann, and falls in love with her in the process. Linton, a mercenary member of Gil’s gigolo quartette, attempts to interest the girl; and she allows him to take her to a cafe. There she meets Gil along with her aunts–escorted by his gigolo friends who have come to spy on Ann. But the aunts become intoxicated on punch; and when the cafe is raided, they are saved by the gigolos. When Ann and Gil announce their marriage, Aunts Sarah and Katherine are forced to consent, to allay the exposure of their scandalous intrigue.” (This summary is brought to you courtesy of TCM.)

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It’s been a while since we’ve covered a film from 1930, which is technically the first year in which all the major Hollywood studios were solely focused on releasing sound pictures. As a result, this, like many of the films from that year, are “clunky,” as the technology was relatively new, and thus, the production neither fluid nor seamless. Loose Ankles is not a visual delight. The shot selections are simplistic and the physical design is routine. (In fact, the only moments in which the cinematography just barely manages to come alive is in the delightful musical numbers.) So one wouldn’t seek out Loose Ankles for a stellar example of filmmaking. But that should seem rather obvious. We come to these Pre-Code films for either their story or their performers.

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Unfortunately, the story is nothing to write home about either. It’s not naughty or scandalous, and it’s never fresh or original. Yet, it does have that early talkie charm — a style that is admittedly a turn off for some (but a turn on for others). Similarly, the performances are at times both overblown (in a mode we might call “theatrical” — even though the word would really be more of a compliment than an insult) and stilted because of the early sound technology. While some of the males are underplaying, the aunts, in particular, are prone to exaggeration. Is it funny? Well, that’s an individual judgement call. (I, personally, was not amused.)

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The only draw, really, is our spotlighted star, Miss Loretta Young, who’s perhaps one of the most stunning ladies we’ve ever featured on this blog. Her presence on the screen is delicately captivating, and in the absence of a strong story and well crafted images, Young remains the film’s principal delight. But there are better Loretta Young Pre-Codes out there (as will be proven in the following weeks, while we jump ahead to 1933), so unless she’s the object of one of your obsessions, skip Loose Ankles and stick around for something more enjoyable.

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Come back next Friday for another Young Pre-Code! And tune in on Monday for the start of a whole new week of fun on That’s Entertainment! 

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