For Reel

Jewel Robbery (1932)
January 4, 2012, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William Dieterle

The roles given to women in the pre-Code era were often more richly drawn than in the Code years. They were independent, driven, and, rather than simply playing the moll, they could play the gangster (Joan Blondell in Blondie Johnson, for example). In Jewel Robbery, William Dieterle’s brilliant, Lubitsch-like farce of 1932, Kay Francis serves as a precursory satire of many of the women who would be seen in Hollywood pictures over the next several decades. Her subservience is a fetish – in one scene, for example, she reveals her rape fantasy. With her wide, starry-eyed attraction to Powell’s thief, she parodies a woman’s expected place within the patriarchy, in addition to contributing to the commentary about how dreadfully dull high-society living has become. Indeed, just as significant to the film is the issue of class, with Powell’s over-indulgence suggesting the narcissistic self-interest of those unaffected by the depression. Just over an hour and with a tone as light as a feather, the film is deceptively simple – the farcical gender dynamics and the humorous indignation of the bourgeoisie make this a marvel of comedic sophistication.

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