Sunday, July 07, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Millie (1931) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

I recently reviewed THE PAINTED DESERT (1931), part of the new three-film RKO Classic Adventures Blu-ray collection from Kino Lorber.

Kino Lorber simultaneously released the Blu-ray set RKO Classic Romances, consisting of five pre-Codes released in 1930 and 1931. This set should greatly appeal to those who loved the Forbidden Hollywood pre-Code collections from the Warner Archive, which came to an end after Volume 10.

All of the films in this collection were restored by Lobster Films and preserved by the Library of Congress.

My first dive into the Classic Romances set was MILLIE (1931), a melodrama starring Helen Twelvetrees in the title role. As it happens, Twelvetrees was also the leading lady of THE PAINTED DESERT.

MILLIE takes place in "chapters," with significant periods of time elapsing between each section of the movie. Early on we see her as the nervous bride of Jack Maitland (James Hall) and then as the mother of baby Connie, increasingly ignored by her wealthy husband.

When Millie learns her husband is cheating on her, she leaves him; declining alimony, she leaves her little girl behind to be brought up in security, with her mother (Charlotte Walker) to help raise her.

Millie goes to work in a hotel and eventually falls for reporter Tommy Rock (Robert Ames), but having been burned by her husband she's reluctant to marry again. Though they never wed, she and Tommy are a steady item, but sure enough, after a few years Tommy cheats on her too. This was actually a bit surprising as Tommy had seemed like a much better man than Millie's husband, but such are the travails of a pre-Code heroine.

Flash forward and Millie's daughter Connie is now a lovely 16-year-old (Anita Louise) -- and Jimmy (John Halliday), a former beau of Millie's, has his sights set on the young girl, despite a significant age difference. He promises Millie he'll stay away from Connie, then arranges to spirit Connie off alone to his country lodge. Millie gets word from a loyal chauffeur and shows up at the lodge with a gun, leading to a climactic courtroom drama.

MILLIE is a sad film, but it's well-paced at 85 minutes, and Twelvetrees' appealing spunk as young Millie makes the audience root for her -- which also makes her downward spiral all the sadder. Twelvetrees effectively ages in the film from pretty young girl (Twelvetrees was about 22 when this was made) to a wan, haggard woman; the character couldn't have been older than 40, based on Connie's age, but Millie had been around the block a time or two -- or three -- by then.

The film is lightened by the presence of a few greatly enjoyed actors, starting with Joan Blondell as one of Millie's friends. Blondell and Lilyan Tashman as the third friend in the trio have plenty of fun lines and keep things peppy amidst the heavier drama. Frank McHugh is a reporter who comes to Millie's aid during the trial, and it's great to see Anita Louise in an early sound role.

Louise had been in movies since 1922, when she was a child actress in the silents billed using her surname, Anita Fremault; beginning in 1929 she dropped using the last name and instead used her middle name, billed from there on as Anita Louise. Watch for a review of her enjoyable "B" film GLAMOUR FOR SALE (1940) coming this week.

All in all, I found MILLIE an enjoyable and worthwhile pre-Code.

MILLIE was directed by John Francis Dillon and filmed by Ernest Haller.

As a side note, there's a biography available on Helen Twelvetrees by Cliff Aliperti of the site Immortal Ephemera.

The print isn't flawless, with occasional noticeable scratches, but overall it's quite good considering the movie's age, and the soundtrack is strong as well.

The Classic Romances Blu-ray set has two discs. MILLIE is on a disc with KEPT HUSBANDS (1931) starring Dorothy Mackaill and Joel McCrea, which I'll be reviewing in the future. There are no extras on the disc.

The other films in the set: THE LADY REFUSES (1931) with Betty Compson, THE WOMAN BETWEEN (1931) with Lili Damita and Anita Louise, and SIN TAKES A HOLIDAY (1930) with Constance Bennett. I'll also be reviewing these in the future, along with additional films from the RKO Classic Adventures set.

Kudos to Kino Lorber for making these early sound films available to home viewing audiences in the best prints possible. I'm very much looking forward to watching the other films in these collections.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember ANITA LOUISE from THE LITTLE PRINCESS(1939)with SHIRLEY TEMPLE. JOAN BLONDELL was great as the aunt(the sister to DOROTHY MCGUIRE) in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. Ive seen Joan in other movies too-including DESK SET with KATHARINE HEPBURN, SPENCER TRACY and GIG YOUNG. Classic TV Fan

8:47 PM  

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