Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Beauty and the Boss (1932)

BEAUTY AND THE BOSS is a delightfully diverting, very unpolitically correct pre-Code. It provided a most enjoyable hour and six minutes.

Warren William plays super-wealthy Viennese Baron Josef von Ullrich. The Baron is a productivity-focused working machine who declares "Women are for non-working hours" when he's distracted by his comely secretary, Ollie (Mary Doran). The Baron discharges Ollie -- then gives her six months' pay and tells her she'll be hearing from him when he has "a weak moment." Some of the dialogue in this scene has to be heard to be believed!

Enter Susie Sachs (Marian Marsh), a poorly dressed young woman who is unemployed and on the verge of starvation; Susie is also, like the Baron, a fiend for work. In a tremendous scene, the best in the movie, Susie thrills him with her efficiency and is hired on the spot. She immediately picks up the phone and has a large order of groceries delivered to her mother -- even, at the Baron's insistence, a goose!

The Baron and Susie sail along, working in harmony, until a business trip to Paris. Susie finds herself jealous of Ollie, who is making a play for the Baron's attention, and as for the Baron, he is stunned when he sees Susie in a Parisian evening gown, and upset when his younger brother (David Manners) declares his love for the duckling-turned-swan.

This movie was tremendous fun, not least because of all the chauvinistic dialogue which couldn't be said in a movie of 2013! Not to mention the racy dialogue which would disappear from movies after the Code began to be enforced in 1934. This is a movie to watch and listen to quite carefully, as the dialogue flying by can leave the viewer's head spinning for multiple reasons.

This is the kind of great no-holds-barred, powerful character Warren William essayed so well in the pre-Code era. As in many other William movies, he's frankly rather a sexist cad at times in this, but he's also tremendous fun to watch. The pre-Code era just wouldn't have been the same without Warren William.

Fortunately, as the film goes on William's character is toned down and softened as he's humbled by love, and the film ends on a high note as a kind of Cinderella romantic comedy.

I'm not sure I've seen Marian Marsh in a film before; she looked and sounded a bit like Reese Witherspoon. She's a wonderful fresh face in this, at least for me as the viewer; she might have toned down her ultra rapid-fire dialogue in the "swan" section of the movie, but it works perfectly in her first and final scenes.

I enjoyed Marsh very much as the determined Susie, who has been turning down dates with the landlord's son so she can perfect her shorthand (150 words a minute!). The sequence where she finagles her way into the Baron's office and talks him into offering her a job is worth the price of admission.

The cherry on top of the icing is droll Charles Butterworth as one of the Baron's assistants. The perpetually befuddled Butterworth can always be counted on to provide some funny moments, and he delivers here.

BEAUTY AND THE BOSS was directed by Roy Del Ruth. The supporting cast includes Frederick Kerr and Robert Greig.

This movie is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

This movie, which was based on a play, was remade just a couple of years later as THE CHURCH MOUSE (1934), starring Ian Hunter and Laura La Plante. THE CHURCH MOUSE is also available from the Warner Archive.

BEAUTY AND THE BOSS can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available on the TCM website.

BEAUTY AND THE BOSS is "must" viewing for anyone who loves pre-Codes, and it makes a great introduction for those unfamiliar with this era in classic film history.


Blogger dfordoom said...

It's quite a good little movie. Warren William was so much fun in the pre-code days.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

This sounds great fun and from what you have said, I look forward to seeing Marion Marsh .

11:28 PM  
Blogger Cliff Aliperti said...

Wow, I almost missed this post! So glad you liked this one, Laura, and you touched upon many of my favorite moments. Very glad you mentioned Charles Butterworth as well, his character cracked me up in every scene!

I really enjoyed Marian Marsh in SVENGALI and FIVE STAR FINAL (both 1931), though I thought her best actual performance came in CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (1935) ... which surprised me when I saw it, I didn't realize she could be that good.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

This was such a fun movie, Cliff! Glad you found my post on it, I enjoyed hearing your take on the movie and the performances of Marsh and Butterworth. Thank you!

Best wishes,

7:34 PM  

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