review for Search for Beauty on AllMovie

Search for Beauty (1934)
by Craig Butler review

The saying that "cheap thrills are better than no thrills" certainly applies to Search for Beauty, a truly dreadful pre-Code exploitation film that is notable for its obsession with the male and female body. Beauty is a smarmy little picture, one which revels in exploiting physical appearance and in making the viewer a voyeur while all the while presenting a story that claims to condemn voyeurism and champion a "healthy" view of physicality. While the flesh on view is nothing compared to what can be found in many more contemporary films, it is shocking for a film from 1934 and includes a few male derrieres in a shower scene and plenty of scantily clad men and women throughout. Beauty also likes to fetishize body parts, zeroing in lovingly and lingeringly on various parts, including a sequence in which one woman uses binoculars to observe Buster Crabbe's crotch. Still, as low as all this is, it's the only entertainment that Beauty provides, for the screenplay is simply lousy and the direction, when not working hard to frame this person's thigh and that person's foot, is boring. Crabbe looks great but turns in a dull performance. Ida Lupino, bleached beyond recognition, is similarly easy on the eyes but displays little of the immense talent that she would fortunately develop in later pictures. James Gleason (unforgettable, for all the wrong reasons, in gym shorts), Robert Armstrong and Gertrude Michael are solid, at least, and there is a significant amount of "What were they thinking?" camp moments, especially in the production numbers. But as drama, there's nothing to Beauty.