Friday, October 02, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Girls Under 21 (1940)

GIRLS UNDER 21 (1940) is a so-so Columbia Pictures programmer starring Bruce Cabot, Paul Kelly, and Rochelle Hudson.

Hudson plays Frances, who loyally stuck by her crime boss husband Smiley (Cabot) while he was in jail, but now that he's been sprung she wants out. She's ready to give up the lux life and fine things she enjoys as his wife and go back to her simple but honest roots, getting a job and living in a poor tenement neighborhood. Unfortunately Smiley is unwilling to let her go and has his goons constantly tailing her.

Frances is supported in her attempts at change by her old friend Johnny (Kelly), a teacher in the neighborhood. They have their hands full with more than Smiley; Frances's little sister Jennie (Tina Thayer), who's one of Johnny's students, is headed for reform school if she doesn't change her ways. Jennie wants fine things like Frances had with Smiley, and she's fallen in with a pack of nasty mean girls who engage in petty theft and bully a smarter girl (Debbie Ellis).

GIRLS UNDER 21 is watchable enough, but the young girls are so unpleasant and have so much screen time that they tend to stop this little 64-minute movie in its tracks from time to time. They're not very entertaining, just cruel and obnoxious.

Still, the movie has its pleasures, starting with Kelly, who is always an interesting actor. He makes pretty much any film worth checking out.

I smiled when a handsome cop popped his face out his patrol car window to talk with Johnny; it was character fave James Millican. He was about 30 in this and had already been in over 40 films as cops, cabbies, pilots, and reporters. It would be several more years before he started playing larger parts on a regular basis, ultimately becoming a key supporting player in countless Westerns before his untimely passing from cancer in 1955.

GIRLS UNDER 21 was directed by Max Nosseck and filmed by Barney McGill.

Incidentally, I was fascinated noting how grimy the tenement area on the Columbia backlot was; the streets were filled with trash, at a level I don't recall seeing in other films with a similar setting.

GIRLS UNDER 21 is not available on DVD or VHS. I saw it on getTV.


Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

Paul Kelly was great, always brought lots of presence and some magic to even the smallest parts. Don't think I've seen this one.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

So true about Kelly! A really interesting actor. This is worth catching for a Kelly fan, although he did better "B" films.

Best wishes,

4:33 PM  

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