For Reel

Havana Widows (1933)
April 20, 2012, 1:39 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ray Enright

Two of the best fast-talkers of the early thirties – Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell – star in Havana Widows, one of their nine screen collaborations. As expected, the picture delivers wise-cracks by the dozen: in one scene, Farrell is dismayed to find Guy Kibbee sleeping on the bed in her hotel room and asks Blondell, “Has he got his knees raised or is all that his stomach?” Frank McHugh and Allen Jenkins, character actors that were always a welcome sight, mirror each other as hapless schlubs who are wrapped up in the women’s schemes. McHugh was talented as a drunk and welcome in small doses – he mastered the art of slurring speech and delivering his familiar high-pitched chortle – but his act is overused and runs stale before too long. The same could be said for much of the picture. In the climax, the narrative dissolves into a live-action cartoon. A chase through a chicken-coop sees feathers and chickens flying out of windows; Guy Kibbee is pursued while crawling on a roof in his pajamas. The zaniness is not quite fit for the stars – Blondell and Farrell are both so good at delivering their repartee, and when the film dismisses such humor for a witless madcap finale, it inevitably disappoints. As well-rounded as the cast is, so much plot is packed into such a meager running time that little stands out, and actors like Kibbee and Lyle Talbot are short-changed. Girl Missing, released earlier the same year and also starring Glenda Farrell, did the gold-digging chorus girl act much better.

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