Sog.: John Bright, Kubec Glasmon; Scen.: Lucien Hubbard; F.: Sol Polito; Mo.: Ray Curtiss; Scgf.: Robert Haas; Co.: Orry-Kelly; Mu.: Leo F. Forbstein; Int.: Virginia Davis (Mary Keaton Da Bambina), Joan Blondell (Mary Keaton), Anne Shirley (Vivian Revere Da Bambina), Ann Dvorak (Vivian Revere Kirkwood), Betty Carse (Ruth Wescott Da Bambina), Bette Davis (Ruth Wescott), Warren William (Robert Kirkwood), Lyle Talbot (Michael Loftus), Humphrey Bogart (Harve), Allen Jenkins (Dick), Edward Arnold (Ace); Prod.: First National Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures; Pri. Pro.: New York, 28 Ottobre 1932; 35mm. D.: 63′. Bn.
Whatever the story of all of this is, with brutal directness and as if in an action painting, this film is about the Depression. There is a mention of the Lindbergh baby, the suicides typical of the times, of course the whole merciless game of wealth and poverty, with a cross-section of all social levels including a great depiction of business life and even a headline “World War seeds in Chinese-Japanese War” – in 1931! We are constantly surprised by how generous this film can get, with the trio of childhood friends (Bette Davis, Ann Dvorak, Joan Blondell), and then Edward Arnold, Humphrey Bogart, Warren William and others (men, broads, show girls, clochards, workers of humble positions all caught in one flashing seconda for eternity i) on the bargain. It is of course a lovely festival of hard boiled talk but always in balance with secret emotions and sensitivity. The speed is breathtaking, as always with Mervyn LeRoy of that period, and evidenced likewise by films like Five Star Final, Two Seconds or Hard to Handle – speed, aided by the splendid montages by Slavko Vorkapic, almost becomes the protagonist of the movie and contributes to a sense of the ‘now’. (It’s intriguing that when LeRoy moved later to MGM he became almost a man of slow motion). All is told in a feverish 63 minutes which manage to say as much as present day films in 2 hours 15 minutes. It is with this sense of speed that even a cliché becomes an important truth, and the frail balance between organized structure and chaos produces a fundamental document about that time, with a meaningful rhythm that goes beyond the plot and subject matter.
Peter von Bagh