“I've got good legs, Mr. Gallagher.”
“Yes, so I've noticed, but don't let them run away with you.”
“Yes, so I've noticed, but don't let them run away with you.”
When I think of Pre-code films I often think of gangster films or films where there are tough woman working their way through life like Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face or Loretta Young in Born to be Bad. There are plenty of good Pre-code musicals but the one that sticks in my mind best is Gold Diggers of 1933 which is so excellent. When I went to watch Dancing Lady I did not even realize it was made in 1933 making it a Pre-code. I found it to be a very good example of a Pre-code not so much with its story but with some of the actions and things that are said.
Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) is a Burlesque dancer. The show gets raided one night on charges of indecency (good lord can you imagine what people would get picked up on today! Can you imagine their shock and horror of some of the rated R films today?!) and unfortunately Janie gets picked. But before she can spend the night in jail her bail is made by a rich man with nothing better to do named Tod Newton (Franchot Tone). Tod frequents the burlesque where Janie worked and liked her and basically wanted to get with her. He takes her out to dinner after she is released and he says he can help her get to Broadway. Janie says thank you but wants to get there by herself not with his money and help. When she gets home that night she opens a letter from Tod that says what words and sayings she should not use and what types of close to wear along with fifty dollars. Janie is mortified especially because he gave her money, she goes to tear up the money but her roommate stops her since that can buy a lot of groceries. The roommate mentions before they go to bed that a stage director named Patch Gallagher (Clark Gable) is putting on a new show and also to keep dreaming because he will never see.
Determined more than ever, Janie goes to Patch’s office the next day. In the office a woman walks out who has a part and Janie notices the woman has a southern accents so she tries it too when she is walked over to Patch. As soon as she is literally pushed out the door by the stage manager Steve Janie drops the accent and gives the guy a great attitude. For days Janie follows Patch around like a stalker just trying to talk to him.
Tod sees how bad Janie wants a job so he writes a letter to his producer friend Jasper Bradley. Bradley immediately takes Janie into his office and sends her down to Patch for an audition. As soon as Steve finds out she is coming to them through a friend of Bradley’s they put her through the ringer and do not plan on letting her into the show. Janie says out loud she knows she is getting the brush off but they are not going to lick her and she tries harder than ever. Steve sees that Janie does have real talent so he calls Patch over. Patch gives in and gives Janie a spot in the show. He asks her if she really loves dancing and is willing to work long hours and she says she is.
The chorus girls are not paid but Tod makes a deal with Bradley to have Janie get paid through him with her knowing about since she does not want his help. One weekend Tod takes Janie to his grandmother’s house. While out for a swim, he asks her to marry him. At first Janie is reluctant because she wants to be part of the show it is something she really wants to do. Tod asks her if the show fails then will she marry him and she says yes. In a selfish act Tod has Bradley close the show down so Janie will be free to marry him. Patch is devastated at the news but with some money he has saved up and with some help from Steve they keep the show going.
After the news about the show and Tod selfishly closing it down, Patch goes out and gets drunk. Janie and Tod are in the same restaurant and he drunkenly tells her what happened to the show. That night Janie goes to Patch’s apartment to smooth things over. She wants the show to be a success but she wants to help it be a success she wants to be in the show again.
Patch puts Janie back in the show and the audience raves about it when it ends. Tod asks her if she still wants to marry him. Janie says no she loves what she does too much to give it up and she does not want to change the way she is.
What I really liked this film was how Pre-code it was. I was in heaven with all the innuendo and the sort of seductive touching. In the scene when Patch asks if Janie really wants to be a dancer in the show he tells her to get going and slaps her behind! There is a really good scene with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford where they are working out. He throws the medicine ball too hard at her and hurts her hand. They like the touch so he plays it rough with her again so he can rub another hurt out of her arm. He tries it a third time this time hitting her in the behind thinking he could touch it but she is on to him and says no and sits down. LOVED IT!! Jasper Bradley’s son works with him and the only reason the kid works with him is because of all the girls. The kid is a hound he is constantly chasing and looking seductively at them or like they are a piece of meat. The raciest part of the whole film was at the beginning when Tod spots Janie at the burlesque. The main singer lets her dress slip off her shoulder revealing a bra strap and then the whole company strips down to skimpy outfit. I in doubt can believe that this one of a handful of films that enraged the Breen office and caused there to be a push in censorship.
I really like Joan Crawford in her early films. Her acting was great and she looked fabulous. There were scenes here and there that her acting was not the greatest but for the most part she did a good job. Her dancing… I do not even know what to say. She had rhythm but she looked so sloppy and too big. To me she looked like an awkward cow (**darting flying objects**) Clark Gable was Clark Gable he was a rough guy with a soft inside. He (literally) played rough with Janie at first to scare her off and then fell for her hard. Crawford and Gable’s chemistry was great. I know they had a little affair going on outside the studio so I am sure that sexual chemistry carried over onto the screen. What I want to know is what one earth did women see in Clark Gable. I think he was a very good actor but there is no way in hell that I think he was handsome. Franchot Tone I really do not have an opinion of. I have seen him in two other films besides this and really has not and does not leave an impression on me.
Fred Astaire makes his screen debut. He plays himself just a dancer in a Broadway show. So if the question ever comes up who was Fred Astaire’s first dance partner it was not Ginger it was Joan Crawford. I think Crawford besides Joan Fontaine in Damsel in Distress is his worst dancing partner. Eve Arden makes a very small appearance as the actress who walks out of Bradley’s office with a southern accent. I love this woman so much I love her attitude and her voice.
Dancing Lady is a very good example of what a Pre-code film consists of. The story was lackluster and unoriginal even for 1933 but the racy scenes were pretty racy and well done. Dancing Lady is a not a film I would rush out to find unless you are a fan of Joan Crawford or Clark Gable.