For Reel

Parachute Jumper (1933)
September 9, 2014, 3:44 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alfred E. Green
3 Stars
Parachute JumperIn a scene from 1962’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) uses clips from some of her early 1930s pictures to demonstrate why her career plummeted. One of said clips is from a Warner Brothers programmer which Davis would long suggest was her worst film. Davis’ lack of enthusiasm is evident in a performance that is rather terrible–she’s saddled with a southern accent that she half-commits to–but despite the failure of the casting, the film has a few things going for it. It’s a provocative slice of Depression life, even if the tone it takes is too light-hearted to really sell the direness of it all. At one point, Davis and the titular jumper Douglas Fairbanks Jr. literally steal a fish from a starving cat and laugh about it. It also is fairly radical, even for the lax period that it was released in–the plot involves narcotics smuggling; a character flicks off a passing car; some of the dialogue verges into Mae West territory of innuendo. While none of this amounts to a cohesive product (the title is a head-scratcher in that there is only one scene involving parachute jumping), it’s a relatively enjoyable mess of pre-Code entertainment.

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