Cabin Fever Film Festival: BED OF ROSES (1933)

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2020 at 8:04 pm


“A couple of ump-chays!”
                 – Minnie Brown
I am dedicating today’s Cabin Fever Film Festival pick – ‘Bed of Roses’ (1933) to Andy Halliday, who loves old movies as I do and just lost his beloved dog, Pickles. I hope it cheers him – and, indeed, all of us – up, for no matter how many times I have seen it – the first WAY back in the 1970s, in a private screening room at MOMA when this never-mentioned but true movie classic was a complete unknown quantity, causing me to rave about it for years before it was finally shown on TNT – it never fails to delight me. The beautifully economical (and beautifully dirty) gem of a screenplay is by the striking Wanda Tuchok, who wrote many of Hollywood’s most entertaining films and was one of its very few women directors. The brilliant Gregory LaCava, co-writer and director, was one of the greatest handlers of comedy and actors, who uncannily always elicited their real personalities and deepest talent, and combined the two in roles, both tailor-made – by the wit of his scripted lines and on-set improvisation – and definitive for them. We’re talking Carole Lombard, et al., in My Man Godfrey, Ginger Rogers in Primrose Path, Claudette Colbert in She Married Her Boss and Private Worlds, Irene Dunne in Unfinished Business, Ann Harding n Gallant Lady, and Stage fucking Door, here. That last film, like so many others by LaCava who was a GREAT women’s director, gave actresses like Hepburn, Rogers, Lucille Ball and Eve Arden roles which forever defined them – whether they were the stars or supporting them in a scene or two – and which they’d actually be playing for the rest of their careers.
Constance Bennett, at the height of her beauty (EVERYONE wanted to look like her then – she was the slimmest – starting with Bette), her unsurpassed chic (whether with a line of dialogue or entrance-making gown) and glittering charisma, is, hilariously, both hard-boiled and soignee, playing just about the slickest gold digger – read whore – who ever dug. Joel McCrea, as a New Orleans barge captain, contributes the hunk factor (and HOW) in such a way as to make you actually see how Bennett might consider giving up the gold.
And then there’s Minnie (nee Minerva) Brown, Bennett’s erstwhile hardcore prison cellmate. She and Bennett bond when she exchanges poontang for a ride to the harbor from a handy trucker, and together, they do what JLO and her gang basically did in HUSTLERS to all those suckers. If you only know Pert Kelton as the adorable Irish pigeon of a mother from “The Music Man” or Jackie Gleason’s first season of THE HONEYMOONER, brace yourself for one of the funniest, most lovable characters you will ever meet. Simply put, with a snappy nasal delivery of lines like, when told by prison matron Jane Darwell upon her release, “Minnie Brown, you’re an impulsive girl,” replies, “I’m tellin’ ya Mrs. Webster, I ain’t got an impulse left,” she’s the tartest tart who ever walked the silver screen.
This movie is really like a box of bon-bons, utterly delicious, and – at a smashingly brisk 67 minutes – gone before you know it. One of Pre-Code films’ greatest assets was the fact that they never belabored anything, something all these filmmakers today who want to clock in at 2.5 hours would do well to heed.


watch it here:

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