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BLONDE CRAZY

title: BLONDE CRAZY
year: 1931
cast: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Louis Calhern
rating: ***1/2

What is it about James Cagney – he brings out the best, and worst, of his leading ladies: the best performances and the worst attitudes – and Joan Blondell’s dealing with Cagney’s conniving “Bert Harris” is half the fun of this 1930’s comedy/melodrama dealing with Harris, a suave hotel employee who sees the right girl is hired: and it’s the blonde bombshell Joan, as “Anne Roberts,” who fits the bill. She’s not only sought after by Harris, but seedy rich guys melt at her feet. Here’s where our climbing antihero sees his future planned out: and together this made-in-heaven match goes from one sucker till the next, swindling relativity small time cash till meeting Louis Calhern, a successful con artist with a big apple for the duo: and a bigger worm inside. One scene involving a horse race and revenge against Calhern is confusing, and not all the con games are too clever, but the chemistry between the Cagney and Blondell, and the hidden desire for his platonic partner that slowly comes to light, is what makes this really shine. A very young Ray Milland plays Joan’s sophisticated new gent – making Cagney realize what, or rather, whom his drive’s been centered. And while a tacked-on “crime will pay” ending is a letdown, the rest works just fine: Especially a pre-Code bathtub scene with Blondell that’s quite… revealing.
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