Saturday, March 09, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Miss Pacific Fleet (1935)

MISS PACIFIC FLEET is a fairly dull comedy despite the engaging presence of Warner Bros.' popular team of Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell.

In this outing Joan and Glenda play young ladies who work at a boardwalk carnival near San Pedro, California. The girls dream of returning to New York but are hard up for cash; they hit upon the idea of Joan raising their train fare if she can win a contest as "Miss Pacific Fleet."

The film's biggest problem is that in order to enjoy the peppery Joan and Glenda, one must also sit through the tiresome "comedy" of that "cinematic toothache," Hugh Herbert. He plays a perennially soused businessman involved with the contest; he's so completely incoherent that it disrupts the storyline any time he comes on screen. The movie needs a lot, lot less Herbert and a lot more Joan and Glenda.

Allen Jenkins plays a sailor who's attracted to Joan, but she's attracted to Marine Warren Hull.  Hull was recently seen as the husband in PERSONAL MAID'S SECRET, released the same year.

One of the things I love about movies is the snapshots they provide of a certain moment in time. In this 1935 film, Jenkins wears a cap emblazoned USS ARIZONA. Little did anyone know then what was ahead for the ARIZONA on December 7, 1941.

The cast includes Marie Wilson as a dumb blonde. A Films of the Golden Age profile of Wilson by Charles Tranberg is available online. In recent years Tranberg has also written good biographies of Robert Taylor and Fred MacMurray.

The supporting cast includes Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Eddie Acuff, Minna Gombell, and Mary Treen.

MISS PACIFIC FLEET was directed by Ray Enright with cinematography by Arthur L. Todd. According to IMDb, future director Delmer Daves made uncredited contributions to the screenplay, written by a trio of billed writers.

MISS PACIFIC FLEET is available on a "Double Feature DVD" from the Warner Archive along with another Blondell-Farrell film, TRAVELING SALESLADY. The print has a few flaws but on the whole it looks quite good.

It should be noted that the running time on the Warner Archive box cover is incorrect; the length listed at IMDb, 66 minutes, is accurate.

The trailer, advertising Joan and Glenda as "poor but virtuous working girls," is at the TCM website.


Blogger Vienna said...

As you say, with a teaming of Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell this should have been a good comedy. Though I haven't seen it, I can imagine how annoying Hugh Herbert and Guinn Williams would be.
You are right that in these films from that period, so often we are reminded of the history of the moment. - the Arizona being a sad example.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T Lynch said...

"In this 1935 film, Jenkins wears a cap emblazoned USS ARIZONA. Little did anyone know then what was ahead for the ARIZONA on December 7, 1941."

Wow, that sends a chill up the spine. Even in a bit of movie fluff like this you never know when you're going to run smack in to something historically significant.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I just can't figure out Herbert's popularity, Vienna, but he must have had his fans -- he sure shows up in a lot of WB films of the era.

But there are always those moments which make me glad I tried a film out -- such as Jenkins and the Arizona cap. And I liked Joan and Glenda when they weren't interrupted by Herbert! :)

Best wishes,

10:29 AM  

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