Sunday, October 15, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Beauty for the Asking (1939) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Lucille Ball stars in BEAUTY FOR THE ASKING (1939), an enjoyable RKO "B" film just released by the Warner Archive.

BEAUTY FOR THE ASKING was released on VHS over a quarter-century ago, but this is the first time it's been on DVD. I found it quite entertaining, and Lucille Ball fans should particularly enjoy catching up with it.

Lucy plays Jean Russell, a beautician who's dumped by her fiance Denny (Patric Knowles) when he has the chance to marry Flora (Frieda Inescort), a somewhat plain multimillionairess who's head over heels for him.

Jean bounces back with a wildly successful cosmetic line and beauty salon, thanks in part to the marketing efforts of Jeffrey Martin (Donald Woods). Jeff carries a torch for Jean, but she's still hung up on Denny -- who comes back into her life when Flora invests in the company, making Denny an executive.

Denny starts wooing Jean again; Jean is tempted but then resolutely sends him to the West Coast on business for six weeks, and while he's away she helps Flora with a makeover and tips on how to keep her man. (Shades of Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins in 1931's THE SMILING LIEUTENANT!) However, ultimately things don't go as either Jean or Flora expect.

I found this quite an entertaining 68 minutes, not least because of its unpredictability. For instance, I tend to think of Frieda Inescort playing haughty women, like Miss Bingley in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940), but she might be the most appealing character in the film, desperately in love with her husband but gradually facing up to the realization that he loves her money but not her.

Without giving anything away, I also didn't expect the way the last ten minutes or so unfolded. It was interesting to me that the filmmakers avoided a too-pat ending.

Ball was at her loveliest in the late '30s, and she's simply gorgeous here. Beyond her appearance, she has the chance to play an interesting woman who works hard to build her own business; she also discovers compassion for her would-be rival and genuinely tries to help her. This helps offset her character's less appealing moments, when for a brief time she puts ethics aside and starts "Looking out for No. 1."

There are some interesting faces in the film, such as Whitney Bourne and Kay Sutton, who were leading ladies in other RKO "B" films. The cast also included Inez Courtney, Charles Coleman, Leonard Carey, Leona Maricle, and Frances Mercer.

I was interested to note that one of the women who provided the idea for the story and screenplay was Adele Buffington. Buffington scripted countless Westerns, with one of her last projects being the very enjoyable COW COUNTRY (1953), reviewed here last month. She also wrote the terrific Johnny Mack Brown Western FLAME OF THE WEST (1945).

The movie was directed by Glenn Tryon, who as an actor starred in the charming LONESOME (1928). It was shot in black and white by Frank Redman. The movie has the great RKO "look" which makes their films of the late '30s so appealing.

The Warner Archive DVD is a nice print. There are no extras.

For another thumbs up review of this little-known but entertaining film, please visit Raquel's post at Out of the Past.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

You hit on a great point. Part of the fun of this movie is it's unpredictability. Very refreshing! I loved your review Laura. Thanks for including mine.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Must try and catch this one. Not one I know. Thanks for your review. Good cast.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Raquel and Vienna! Raquel, I'm so glad you enjoyed the review -- and the movie! It was quite fun. Vienna, I'd love to know what you think when you catch up with it!

Best wishes,

12:09 AM  

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