It’s a short little “women’s film” from pre-code days. Before the Hays Office instituted official bluenosery on the wild lascivious products of Hollywood, they got away with much more sinnuendo and amorality. Blame the 20s, if you wish; morals were famously loosened, what with the short hair and public smoking and vampy women. Blame the 30s, if you like; when the good times ended people wanted chivalrous crooks and dames what knew all the angles. This one intrigued me because the heroine owned an automobile company, and I don’t mean she had it in her name because she was a gold-digger whose got-rocks sugar pops died of a love attack one night, and she inherited the business. I mean she was the CEO. She ran the company in her brusque, no-nonsense style. A real sphere-breaker, this one – and to compound the insult to the male ego, she’d occasionally drift through the drafting rooms, find some hunky inker, invite him up to the house for servicing, then transfer him to a branch office if he actually took any of it seriously.
Racy! Here’s something that caught my eye. She’s invited one of the pony-boys over for a midnight swim, followed by Vodka. (It’s discussed as an almost exotic drink in the movie; they have to explain what it is on a few occasoions.) She has a special remote control she presses when the time is right for lover boy to get sauced up on the Russian stuff – and it’s keyed to her location, too. She presses the button in the library, a LIBRARY button lights up in the servants quarters, and they get out the potato juice. Anyway: this shot made me pause.
That may seem familiar. The bricks, I mean. Those are famous bricks. I rewould the movie to see if there was something I missed – and yes, I don’t watch every frame; if it’s a talky pic, I do work on one monitor while the movie plays on the other. Hello:
Let’s flip that around:
See it? Above the car? Yes, it’s the famous Ennis House by Frank Lloyd Wright, a house made of patterned concrete blocks – part of the very-short-lived Mayan revival. The interiors were used in “Blade Runner,” and several other films.
The swimming pool scene is a set, though – a set built for “Footlight Parade,” reused here. It wasn’t the only thing reused – the tune “Shanghai Lil,” plays through half the film, and I don’t know which movie used the song first. It’s always a bit odd when you remember that pop culture does not consist of hermetically sealed elements that don’t interact; it’s like learning that “As Time Goes By” was an old song by the time Dooley Wilson played it for Ilsa.
Anyway. The swimming pool is odd – note the stylized giraffe - either that or the foot of someone with a horrible skin disease. That was the 30s: even someone as sleek as a giraffe had to be stylized.
I just carved my hair and I can't do a thing with it! I can see that outside the Tombs, but who’d want it in their backyard? The interior of her house is most certainly not the Ennis:
Look in the center. Yes, it’s a suspended pipe organ:
The fellow played “Shanghai Lil” and nothing but. Minor key. Slow tempo. On a pipe organ. That was how the rich lived, or at least how people thought they did.
Here’s a clip – our heroine’s heart has melted, thanks to the smooth, devil-may-care stylings of a dashing industrial designer. He spars a little with the male secretary, who knows he’s been testing streamlined designs with the boss, so to speak; then there’s a strange phone conversation that seems improbably casual and out of character. Up to now she’s been all business, and it’s almost as if she forgets to act here: “Yep.” Then, after threats have been made: “Don't be late.” But that’s not why I put this up. There’s a juxtaposition of visuals and dialogue that seems amusing, that’s all.