Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Red-Haired Alibi

Last year I made a February Break Resolution, so to speak. Actually I made three. Every day that week, I challenged myself to 1) watch a pre-code film I hadn't seen before 2)eat a grilled cheese sandwich and 3) make some kind of art or craft. I revisited the post so I could remind myself to make the most of this break.

It might not sound like the most exciting use of time, but for me it is exciting to watch new movies, and spot actors and actresses I know from other films, and make the connections.

This one popped up on my YouTube list of suggestions, and I went for it immediately because it's the first full-length feature film for Shirley Temple. Previous to this film, she had appeared in the Baby Burlesque shorts (kind of like a knock-off of Our Gang) but this was her first real dramatic role, and it was the foundation of her fame.

It's a gangster story, with the typical tough guy talks and slick criminals who want women to put up and shut up. Merna Kennedy is the young redhead who gets swept up in that world after she agrees to pose as the wife of Trent Travers, a handsome and surprisingly well-spoken gangster. He is putting together some deals, and having a 'wife' makes him look less conspicuous.

Shirley Temple is the scene stealer as Gloria Shelton, the little daughter of a man that Lynn once met in a hotel lobby, while she was posing as Mrs. Travers. She has already made her escape from Travers and his life of crime, and she is hired as a nanny for the adorable Gloria.

Since Gloria's mother is no longer in the picture, so of course her father, who has never forgotten the beautiful redhead, falls in love with the woman who wins the adoration of his daughter.

Merna Kennedy's star shone in the late silent era, and in the early talkie transition period. She began dancing at a very young age, and became friends with Lita Grey when she was seven years old.

 Lita Grey later became the second wife of Charlie Chaplin. Grey introduced her friend to her future husband, who gave her a role in his 1928 film The Circus. Kennedy went on to marry director/choreographer Busby Berkeley. Berkeley is a name I always recognize because Judy Garland's painting of him was ruthless, making him into an insensitive slave-driver in her accounts of working with him.

Despite her association with Chaplin and her high-profile marriage, Kennedy never became one of the major players of the Golden Era. She died at the young age of 36, just four days after marrying her second husband.

The story was nothing very original, but it's worth watching if only to see how Shirley Temple fares in her first 'grown up' role.

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