So today’s entry takes us all the way back to 1932, where movies were still in their infancy and the stars of the era are pretty much unrecognizable to the majority of movie audiences today. I only watched Blondie of the Follies because of its star Marion Davies. I’m a huge classic Hollywood hound, I love the stories (mostly tawdry) and the stuff these stars got away with…I’m not sure if anyone was as bold and brazen as Marion Davies. I can’t say I enjoyed the movie as much, but Davies was certainly an actress to watch, no matter how she got her film roles.
Blondie (Davies) is a tenement dweller who has grown up alongside her best friend Lottie (Billie Dove). When Lottie makes it big in a Broadway show, and changes her name to Lurlene, Blondie doesn’t enjoy the snooty changes in her friend. Lottie brings her out to visit and gets Blondie a part in the show. Things change though when Lurlene’s love interest Larry Belmont (Robert Montgomery) falls for Blondie. With Blondie’s star rising, and Lurlene losing the man she’s got her eye on, their friendship takes a turn for the worse.
It all boils down to the fact that even back in the 1930s people were making movies about how catty women can get when fame and men enter the equation. Not to jump on my feminist soapbox but Larry is a pretty bland guy and aside from the fact he has a lot of money, I just couldn’t believe Lurlene and Blondie had any interest in this guy. That wasn’t the biggest point of frustration though, the issue I had was how bitchy Lurlene/Lottie becomes and how saint-like Blondie is. Blondie staunchly maintains throughout the movie that she won’t show any interest in Larry in solidarity of her friendship with Lottie, yet Lottie continuously treats Blondie like crap! Lottie continuously asks Blondie “do you like him, are you going out with him” and Blondie says no…but Lurlene continues to ask! At a certain point I just wanted Blondie to jump on Larry and then say “AH HA” to Lurlene.
The movie is fairly straight-forward and boring, mostly showing the problems of fame and how women can be utter bitches. The big climax involves Blondie getting into an accident, it was Lottie’s fault, and breaking her leg. Blondie saintly gives up her role in the show…only to get everything she wanted including Lottie suddenly begging for forgiveness. Who knew all it took was your best friend breaking your leg for your best friend to realize how sorry they are that they hurt you…make sense? Good! It also has a hilarious moment where Blondie comes out on crutches only to have Larry say “We’ve found a way to cure you!” Cure her, of a broken leg…isn’t that what a cast is for? It’s not like she’s got cancer or something…oh well it was the 1930s.
So I can’t say I enjoyed the film but I loved Marion Davies as Blondie. If you don’t know anything about Davies she was the longtime mistress of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. He built the beautiful Hearst castle for her (which is on my bucket list) and the castle tour even plays home movies of the couple. Mind you…Hearst was married to another woman until the day he died but Davies was his worst kept secret. They were openly a couple and yet no one cared…I’d love to see that play out in a Brad, Angie, Jen love triangle today. And sure there was that whole Thomas Ince murder thing that happened on their watch but who remembers that (watch The Cat’s Meow for a great re-enactment of the Ince murder as well as seeing the most accurate depiction of Davies and Hearst’s relationship with Kirsten Dunst as Davies). Regardless, Davies is just fun in this role. She has moments where she’ll roll her eyes, or mock someone behind their back. It’s not malicious, but hilarious. Davies was a strong comedienne and she is just brilliant here.
Blondie of the Follies is only good for Davies herself. The movie is stereotypical of 30s films and doesn’t really offer anything but melodrama.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.