There are several reasons to praise Warner Archive, but the main one is that they support all manner of classic film, even small comedic outings like Kansas City Princess. This Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell buddy comedy would never win any awards, but it’s just zany and quirky enough to be representative of how certain films were able to slide under the radar before the Production Code slapped the censor button everything.
Rosie Sturges and Marie Callahan (Blondell and Farrell, respectively) are two hard-working manicurists trying to nail down the three things every girl should have: “money, jack, and dough.” When Rosie decides to marry “mug” Dynamite Carson (Robert Armstrong), Marie decides he isn’t good enough. A series of comic hijinks sees the two girls end up on a boat to Paris, eventually getting mixed up in a marriage plot involving a wealthy man and his philandering wife.
WIth just an hour of screentime – excising the opening credits – the plot feels excessive as a means of covering how spartan it truly is. Rosie is set to marry Dynamite, but has reservations because of Marie’s interfering. Cut to Rosie’s attempt to find a wealthier man only to have her engagement ring stolen. Her attempts to recover the ring could sustain an entire hour, but the film doesn’t linger too much on that. Instead, the stolen engagement ring becomes the McGuffin to get Marie and Rosie to dress up as makeshift girl scouts to flee NYC before Dynamite comes home.
And if you think that’s enough plot, the script isn’t done. The girls abandon the “pretend to be children” conceit quickly, ending up on a boat to Paris which does nothing more than transport them towards Junior Ashcraft (Hugh Herbert), a millionaire in love with his wife whose cheating on him. The script shifts gears once again with Marie and Rosie, paired up with Dynamite, to prove Ashcraft’s wife is up to no good. These individual plots are all funny, but they do play like ragged script pieces someone fished out of a wastebasket then pasted together to form a coherent plot.
That being said, it’s hard not to get suckered into a movie that stars Blondell and Farrell. Like most ’30s women on film Rosie and Marie are tough-talking dames who know what they want or, in this case, what they don’t want. Farrell and Blondell are the perfect comedic duo, anticipating each other’s responses and creating a true friendship between them. Marie wants Rosie to elevate herself, and it’s hard not to sympathize with Farrell who doesn’t make Marie a cynic, just a caring friend who knows her friend isn’t 100% happy. However, the film has to end with Marie coming off as more scheming than anything else. The best moments of the film involve the two women, whether giggling to themselves as they stand in a line of outdoor women or trying to save each other from a handsy Russian.
Rosie never musters up more than a passing appreciation for Dynamite, and although Blondell and Armstrong are cute together their relationship is never situated as one of amorous adventures. They’re more a fun brother-sister duo than anything else. So when Dynamite tells Rosie they’re engaged, failing to factor in her response, it’s situated that the movie will follow Rosie’s attempts to either shake off the mug or find something that proves they’re destined. Really, both and neither happens. The third act gets fairly kooky and things wrap up so quickly you’ll experience whiplash from the backpedaling the girls do. This doesn’t diminish the feature, but it continues the belief that this was a slapdash affair meant to pair the two women up and little else.
Kansas City Princess is a fun diversion – it’s 1934 and you’ll be shocked to hear a cocaine reference floridly made. Blondell and Farrell are the best, and this movie is a great feature for their wisecracking. Warner Archive didn’t skimp on the presentation as this transfer looks fabulous.
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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.