Saturday, November 12, 2016

Tonight's Movie: I've Got Your Number (1934) at UCLA

Tonight was another great evening in UCLA's series Joan Blondell: Blonde Crazy!

Last weekend I saw two pre-Codes starring Blondell. Tonight's double bill consisted of I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER (1934), released in the waning days of the pre-Code era, and DAMES (1934), released shortly after the enforcement of the Production Code began in July 1934.

I hadn't seen DAMES since I reviewed it in 2008. It was a treat to see Busby Berkeley's elaborate choreography for "I Only Have Eyes For You" on a big screen!

Blondell starred in DAMES with the man who would soon be her second husband, Dick Powell, along with Ruby Keeler. Blondell and Powell's son Norman was sitting across the aisle from me tonight, and it was fun to occasionally notice him smiling at the screen. What an amazing thing it must be to watch one's parents as they were over 80 years ago!

I thoroughly enjoyed I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER, a peppy 69-minute film about Terry (Pat O'Brien), a phone repairman, and Marie (Blondell), a phone operator.

The movie opens with a terrific montage of phone operators at work connecting a variety of calls. (Sharp-eyed classic film fans will notice Bess Flowers as a supervisor in this sequence.) The story then zeroes in on Terry and Johnny (Allen Jenkins) at work in a variety of situations.

Terry meets and falls for Marie, who has the misfortune to be around when Nicky (Gordon Westcott) rips off two different businesses, so the police believe she's part of his racket. Terry and Johnny use their phone skills to help crack the case so Marie will be free to have a happy ending with Terry.

The wisecracking O'Brien and Blondell have good chemistry as a feisty pair who seem made for each other. Their edgy banter definitely has a pre-Code flavor to it which adds to the fun.

An unusual postscript is that, according to Matthew Kennedy's Blondell biography, the final honeymoon scene was shot in Joan's real bedroom in her home, as she was bedridden due to complications following an abortion.

Blondell's husband, cinematographer George Barnes, did not want children, but after this incident Joan insisted on carrying her next child to term, and she was pregnant while filming DAMES. She divorced Barnes and married Powell in 1936, and little Norman (named for actor-director Norman Foster) was adopted by Powell.

In addition to the always-welcome Jenkins, the cast of I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER includes Glenda Farrell, Eugene Pallette, Hobart Cavanaugh, Henry O'Neill, Louise Beavers, and Henry Kolker.

Like DAMES, I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER was directed by Ray Enright. It was shot in black and white by Arthur L. Todd.

I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER is available on DVD from the Warner Archive. It's part of a two-disc set with HAVANA WIDOWS (1933), also starring Blondell, Farrell, and Jenkins.

Like last week, tonight's UCLA double bill was preceded by home movies featuring Powell, Blondell, and their son, which were donated to UCLA by the Powell family. A special way to start a terrific evening.

The Blondell series continues on November 16th with STAND-IN (1937) and FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933).


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