Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Girl Week 2016: Call Her Savage, a guest post by Joel

Yes, Girl Week 2016 is still going strong! Earlier today, I borrowed my blog from Joel to talk about Brooklyn. With that out of the way, I'll step aside once more. Joel has another wonderful woman to tell us about.

Directed by John Francis Dillon.
1932. Not Rated, 82 minutes.
Clara Bow
Gilbert Roland
Thelma Todd
Monroe Owsley
Estelle Taylor
Weldon Heyburn
Willard Robertson

Strap in kids, this one’s a wild ride!! In this pre-code legendary “IT” girl Clara Bow, in her second to last feature, plays Texas rich girl Nasa Springer who drives her father crazy with her “hot blood”. Unable to handle her and worried about her involvement with his Native American hand Moonglow (Gilbert Roland) he ships her off to a Chicago boarding school.

That doesn’t slow her down one bit and she elopes with a hothead ne'er do well who abandons her in short order taking her most of her loot with him. Disowned by Daddy, deserted and knocked up she’s reduced to penury and while out attempting to ply the world’s oldest profession for medicine for the baby tragedy occurs.

She’s down but not out yet and toughs her way back until her reptile of a husband, now ravaged by venereal disease and going mad shows back up, attempts rape and tries to hold her up for more cash. Showing this is a true pre-code when Clara, after wrestling him to the ground, warns his “Don’t get up!” he responds “I get up every afternoon!!” Then Moonglow shows up to tell her she’s inherited a fortune and she’s off to New York for a little night life, including a visit to a gay club where the waiters sing about sailors in pajamas! Eventually word arrives that trouble’s brewing down at the ranch so she hits the trail back for the final revelation of the mystery to her wildcat ways!! All in just over 80 minutes!

Wildly sexual, and for most of the running time unencumbered by underwear, Bow drives this with enormous star presence. It’s an unruly but fascinating film that doesn’t miss a trick in subjects that would soon be verboten for decades…whippings, miscegenation, drug use, STDS, interracial romance, swearing, near nudity, homosexuality as well as a glorious cat fight between Clara and the gorgeous but ill-fated Thelma Todd, nicknamed “Hot Toddy” she ran with a fast crowd and was murdered a few years after this for pushing back at the mobsters who wanted to turn her seaside restaurant into a money laundering front. You’ll rarely, if ever, see anything like it!

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  1. Once again Dell this looks fantastic! These pre-codes are so unique unto themselves. They're often so unbridled but still manage to work it all into a decent story and always at a lively clip. Bow's are some of the randiest. She didn't work in sound for very long, her life was plagued by scandals and eventually mental illness which ran heavily in her family plus she suffered from "mike fright".

    She wasn't a trained actress but had won a magazine contest and it turned out that she was a born natural for film but being an intuitive performer was much more comfortable in the more free form expression that silents required and once sound came in developed the involuntary habit of looking up at the microphone or being paralyzed with fear and unable to perform. After the film that followed this, "Hoopla"-another interesting movie, she married cowboy star Rex Bell (which unfortunately turned her into Clara Bell just like Howdy Dowdy's cow!) and retired to his ranch in Nevada eventually becoming such a shut-in that her sons had to make an appointment to visit and dying alone at 60.

    But before all that she was a very vivid star in silents and though I'm not sure how fond of that milieu you are and a great many of her films are lost, some still exist and the better ones are The Saturday Night Kid, It and The Wild Party. She also had a small role in the first Best Picture Oscar winner Wings. She's always very watchable.

    1. Wow, that's fascinating stuff about Ms. Bow. I hadn't heard any of that before. I'm cool with silents. I just haven't seen as many as I should. I'm working on it.

  2. I so want to see this film because of the great Clara Bow. I think she would have been perfect as a wise cracking gal in the gangster pictures that became so popular in the 30's but that scandal with her secretary scratched that along with her mental illness. Clara is fascinating and a natural in front of the camera. She was never truly accepted by the Hollywood crowd since they were taking themselves all too seriously. She was quite the innocent hedonist back in the day.

    1. It's definitely worth looking out for, it very occasionally will pop up on TCM and I think it might have been released on DVD in one of those pre-code collection. I love Clara Bow, read her biography "Running Wild" and she had a hell of a life-both extreme highs and devastating lows, she's so alive on screen and except for her pencil thin eyebrows her look is timeless.

  3. O

    This sounds incredible. I love how those early 30's films...did things that basically were banned in cinema for the next 30 years. Bravo! Now I want to work on a 30's year for the Fistis ASAP!!!

    1. A 30's Fistis would be awesome!!! I'd recommend either '32 or '33 both stellar pre-code years. With '32 you'd be in for some prime Harlow with Red Dust, then '32 is also the year of Grand Hotel, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Freaks, this film and a bunch of others.

      But then with '33 there's Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face and the wild Story of Temple Drake, considered so depraved it was withdrawn from public view and nearly lost until 2011 when a new print was struck and shown on TCM. '33 is also King Kong, Design for Living, The Bitter Tea of General Yen and Dinner at Eight. You couldn't go wrong with either.

      I'll be anxious to see which year you go with if you do decide to do one from the thirties. :-)

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