Cinema: The New Pictures: Dec. 14, 1931

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Blonde Crazy (Warner) shows a few of the tricks whereby an enterprising bellhop, equipped with light lingers and curly hair, can live handsomely on his wits. The bellhop (James Cagney) is so much interested in dishonesty that he keeps a scrapbook of variations of the badger game, methods of stealing diamond bracelets, false money transactions and likely methods of beating persons who think they can beat the races. By the practice of these wiles, he manages to keep luxurious quarters in the best hotels, preying mostly upon persons no more honest but less versatile than himself. But he is an over-confident confidence man. His one act of outright burglary—the theft of the diamond bracelet—finally has bad consequences. Detectives corner him in his rooms, chase him down a street in automobiles, shoot him with a machine gun. He is last seen in jail, making sentimental overtures to his blonde partner (Joan Blondell).

This conclusion serves the purposes of law & order. It is not in keeping with the rest of the picture, which is a chipper, hardboiled, amusing essay on petty thievery. In his first starring performance, James Cagney has a role in which he is more mischievous than wicked. He makes rascality seem both easy and attractive as he did in The Public Enemy and Smart Money, two previous works by Authors Kubec Glasmon and John Bright who wrote Blonde Crazy. Good shot: Cagney casting hungry glances at the female patrons of a nightclub.

James Cagney was born over a saloon owned and run by his father in a Manhattan slum. By the time he reached high school he had started that series of heterogeneous occupations which occur painfully at the outset of many a cinematic career. He was a copy boy for the New York Sun; a department store bundle-wrapper; a librarian; a neophyte painter. He left Columbia University to be a chorus boy. From this traditionally effeminate occupation, he presently was graduated to vaudeville, musical comedy (Grand Street Follies)., legitimate plays (Women Go on Forever and Outside Looking In for which he was selected because he had red hair). His 1930 performance, opposite Joan Blondell, in Penny Arcade, got him to Hollywood, which, since talkies, has been the final up-step for an actor's progress. Noted for his impersonations of unscrupulous and philandering heroes, he is less airy when out of the camera's eye. Recently in a Hollywood cafe he was roundly cuffed by Mrs. James Cagney for looking at another lady. Last autumn he won a celebrated salary argument with Warner Brothers. This is his first starring picture.

Frankenstein (Universal). Mary Wollstonecraft (Mrs. Percy Bysshe Shelley) wrote this story, supposedly to win a bet from her husband and Lord Byron. It is a grisly conceit about a young doctor who, experimenting with synthetic animation, produces a live, dangerous and somewhat human monster. Universal, encouraged by the success of Dracula to produce a series of horrific weirds, in which Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue will be next, entrusted the direction of Frankenstein to James Whale. He did it in the Grand Guignol manner, with as many queer sounds, dark corners, false faces and cellar stairs as could possibly be inserted.

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