Sunday, March 03, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Professional Sweetheart (1933) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Last week I reviewed Ginger Rogers in the World War II homefront drama TENDER COMRADE (1943). Tonight I've stepped back a decade and watched Ginger in PROFESSIONAL SWEETHEART (1933), a comedy recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Ginger plays radio star Glory Eden, who represents a washcloth company as "Miss Purity." The Glory the public knows through the radio is a sweet and virginal orphan, epitomizing perfect virtuous womanhood, but behind the scenes Glory is yearning to kick up her heels and go smoking, drinking, and dancing in Harlem like her maid Vera (Theresa Harris). Glory even mourns the fact there's zero possibility she can ever get "in trouble."

Fearing Glory won't renew her contract, the show's sponsors decide to tame her by picking a young man from her fan mail to give Glory the excitement of a little (very pure) romance. Jim (Norman Foster) is a simple man from Kentucky, but he's quite taken with Glory and before he knows it he's not only romancing Glory, he's proposing marriage. Glory, seeing Jim as her ticket to freedom, says yes -- then is shocked when instead of taking her on the town Jim takes her to his small cabin in Kentucky.

After a rip-roaring fight, Jim and Glory come to a wedding night understanding and Glory thinks she'd like to retire from the radio to keep house for Jim, but when Glory and Jim learn Vera has taken her place on the radio they have second thoughts about living a quiet life in the country.

PROFESSIONAL SWEETHEART is a fairly nutty film, but it holds the attention thanks to a great cast and its very pre-Code attitudes. Some of the dialogue is quite eye-popping; watching and listening for those unexpected moments, which wouldn't be possible on film just a year later, is part of the movie's fun.

The film is also quite undated in its portrayal of a media-created star and how she's packaged and sold to the audience. The medium of radio might be different from TV, movies, YouTube, or Instagram, but the basic concepts are still relevant decades later, including the need to constantly feed the media beast with fresh "news."

ZaSu Pitts is particularly amusing as a reporter; a scene where she's happy to find Franklin Pangborn without his pants is one of many jaw-dropping "Did that just happen?" moments. Also in the cast: Allen Jenkins, Frank McHugh, Sterling Holloway, Gregory Ratoff, and Edgar Kennedy. Akim Tamiroff shows up briefly as a waiter.

With the lovely Theresa Harris playing Vera, the movie left me wondering what happened to her after Glory returned to her show! It was refreshing to see a black woman in this era take over as star of the show, even if just for a week. I also enjoyed Glory's friendship with Vera and wished there were more scenes shared by the two actresses.

Curiously, it's clearly not Ginger singing on the radio; she was dubbed by Etta Moten, who also dubbed Joan Blondell in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933). Some sources indicate that Moten may have also dubbed Harris.

PROFESSIONAL SWEETHEART was directed by William A. Seiter and filmed by Edward Cronjager. The running time is 73 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD print is somewhat soft but without major defects. The sound is a bit fuzzy at times, as can be typical of early sound films, but again it's generally fine. There are no extras on the DVD.

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.

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