Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Finishing School (1934)

FINISHING SCHOOL is a highly engrossing tale about Virginia (Frances Dee), a girl from a wealthy family who is parked at an exclusive finishing school by her neglectful parents (Billie Burke and John Halliday). After a misadventure with her roommate (Ginger Rogers), Virginia meets a nice young intern who is training at a children's hospital (Bruce Cabot), and they fall in love. As the doctor is not from a "good" family and supports himself with a side job as a waiter, the school's administrator and Virginia's parents conspire to keep the couple apart, with near-disastrous results.

The movie has very appealing lead performances by Dee and Cabot, with Rogers giving one of her typically spirited performances as Dee's wild-but-loyal roommate. Dee was roughly 24 and Rogers 23 at the time the film was made -- perhaps a bit old to be playing boarding school girls, but Dee in particular looks the part, and the viewer is happy to suspend disbelief while watching these ladies act. The high point of the film is an extended Christmas sequence with no dialogue, simply watching the lonely Virginia, who has been forced to remain at school for the holidays.

The movie was made the same year the Production Code came into existence, and it seems to have thus escaped some of the Code's restrictions. The plot takes a somewhat surprising turn of events for an "old" movie -- I was a bit slow to catch on (grin) -- but this being Hollywood, all ends well.

Beulah Bondi and Sara Haden are the dragon ladies running the school; Anne Shirley (then billed as Dawn O'Day) is one of the younger students; and Jane Darwell has an uncredited role as a cranky nurse.

FINISHING SCHOOL runs a quick 73 minutes and was filmed in black and white. It was directed by George Nicholls, Jr. (also known as George Nichols, Jr.), and Wanda Tuchock. Tuchock wrote a number of screenplays but had only two directing credits; her other directorial effort would not come until 1952.

FINISHING SCHOOL has been released on VHS. It can also be seen on cable on Turner Classic Movies.

Vote here for FINISHING SCHOOL to be released on DVD.

2011 Update: FINISHING SCHOOL is now available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive.

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