Platinum Blonde (Frank Capra / U.S., 1931):

The two stools are the teeming newsroom and a bourgeois lounge that echoes, Frank Capra establishes the latter's dimensions with an overhead shot and then transverses it via a sprawling tracking shot ("About carfare back to the front door?"). The protagonist, a reporter, is essayed by Robert Williams in a beguiling performance somewhere between Lee Tracy's snap and Bing Crosby's sleepy insouciance. His latest assignment involves a family of bluebloods and love letters from a blackmailing chorus girl; he's unmoved by the sight of a $50 bribe but takes a shine to the "queenly" nose of the heiress (Jean Harlow). "I tell you, that schnozzle is the berries," he sighs to Loretta Young, the gal-pal he doesn't notice is a looker until she shows up amid the stuffed-shirts in a sparkling gown. "You get into a drawing room, you step on a sliding rug," the editor warns, though Williams is so smitten with Harlow that he lets the rival paper scoop him on their elopement. The gilded birdcage is the metaphor in Robert Riskin's treatment of the male Cinderella story, Capra gives it a light, offhand reading -- Williams refuses to use garters on his socks ("A symbol of my independence!") until Harlow engages him in a singsongy duet that has the sweet ring of improvisation and ends with the two collapsing in bed. Greatly illustrative of later Capra films (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe), this Depression-era seduction offers such snazzy pleasures as Halliwell Hobbes's Swiftian polish as the butler who lets out a soft "Whoopee!," Walter Catlett's lovely rendition of a newshound ninny, and the comely rawness of the two leading ladies a year or so before they would have been made to trade roles. With Reginald Owen, Edmund Breese, Louise Closser Hale, and Don Dillaway. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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