Platinum Blonde (1931)

Genres - Comedy, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy, Sophisticated Comedy  |   Release Date - Oct 31, 1931 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bob Mastrangelo

This early Frank Capra talkie showcases Robert Williams in an edgy performance as Stew Smith, a streetwise reporter who naively jumps into marriage with the beautiful socialite Anne Schuyler. Inevitably, he loses his identity and is cut off from all that was familiar to him. While the plot may seem like a cliché to modern audiences, the evolution of Stew and Anne's relationship is handled with a refreshing maturity. Their attraction is immediate, and Williams and Jean Harlow have a chemistry that comes through as honest, notably in a sexually charged scene where they make out behind a fountain glass, and in a bedroom scene where they playfully argue with each other while speaking their dialogue to the tune of "A-Hunting We Will Go." At first, Stew fights to retain his connection to his former world -- he refuses to wear garters, use his valet, give up his job, or live in Anne's house -- but one by one surrenders each of these principles, almost without realizing it. Capra repeatedly stresses the theme of the bird in a gilded cage to emphasize Stew's confinement (and emasculation). Capra also underscores Stew's boredom through subtle touches such as showing him playing hopscotch on the tile floor. Stew's scenes with the butler Smythe are especially fun, as when he instructs Smythe in how to yell so that his voice echoes through the vast but empty mansion, and Smythe in turn educates Stew on the fine art of puttering. Platinum Blonde can certainly be accused of being rather predictable and simplistic, but it also possesses a charm and naturalness that is often missing from Capra's later films.