SPOTLIGHT: Brassy Pre-Code Blondell (I)

Welcome to a new Film Friday and the launch of our spotlight series on the Pre-Code work of Joan Blondell (1906-1979), an iconic Warner dame known for her snappy speech and straight-shooting style. We’ve covered Illicit (1931), The Public Enemy (1931), and Night Nurse (1931), but haven’t even yet scratched the surface of her miraculous Pre-Code career. We’re making up for lost time, beginning with…


Blonde Crazy (1931)


A con-man bellhop and his chambermaid girlfriend set out to fleece hotel guests. Starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Louis Calhern, Noel Francis, Ray Milland, and Guy Kibbee. Story by Kubec Glasmon and John Bright. Directed by Roy Del Ruth.


“Bert Harris, hotel bellhop, likes the looks of Ann Roberts so he arranges for her to get a chambermaid job that has been promised to someone else. Bert has a number of side businesses, including running a craps game, selling bootleg alcohol and blackmailing. After a successful blackmail attempt, Bert and Ann leave town to celebrate. At a more glamorous hotel in another city, Bert meets Dapper Dan Barker, a well-known con man. The two plan a job together, and Bert assumes that he and Dan will be working together. Instead, Dan cons Bert and gets away with $5,000 that belongs to him and Ann. Bert steals a necklace and pawns it to get back Ann’s share of the money, and the two leave for New York in search of Dan.


“On the train, Ann meets Joe Reynolds and falls in love with him. Joe woos Ann with the poems of Robert Browning, and convinced that he is more cultured and more respectable than Bert, she agrees to marry him. Before the marriage, however, Ann thinks up a scheme involving horseracing that takes Dan for the money he stole from them and more. One year later, Ann visits Bert at his hotel. She confesses that Joe has embezzled $30,000 from his firm and is facing jail. Bert agrees to help them out and works out a scheme with Joe. That night when Bert visits Joe’s office, Joe is waiting for him with the police and Bert is sent to prison. Ann visits Bert in prison to tell him that she realizes that she has always loved him and will wait for his release.” (This summary is brought to you courtesy of TCM.)