1932 was a great year for movies. Just look at these gems: Grand Hotel, A Bill of Divorcement, Rain, No Man of Her Own, Red Dust, Scarface, The Mummy, Freaks, etc… Two of the year’s hidden gems, however, are The Greeks had a Name for Them (a.k.a. Three Broadway Girls) and Three on a Match. They both belong to the ever-so-fascinating Pre-Code era and they scream Pre-Code!
The Greeks had a Name for Them (dir. Lowell Sherman) revolves around Jean (Ina Claire), Schatzi (Joan Blondell) and Polaire (Madge Evans), three money-hungry women who are always on the look-out for a millionaire. Jean is the most ruthless and unapologetically shallow of the three, while Schatzi and Polaire are more kind-hearted and down-to-earth. Jean and Polaire are so different, in fact, that Schatzi often finds herself getting in between the two of them to keep them from getting into an argument. They go to parties, behaving like high society girls, they steal each others’ boyfriends and deliver zinger after zinger to each other. They will leave you in stitches.
Three on a Match (dir. Mervyn LeRoy), however, is much darker picture. It’s only about an hour long, but it has enough drama in it for a mini-series! Ruth (Bette Davis), Mary (Joan Blondell) and Vivian (Ann Dvorak) went to the same elementary school. They meet by accident after many years and decide to have lunch together. Ruth is now a stenographer, Mary went to reform school and is now an entertainer, and Vivian is married to a lawyer and has a beautiful son. She is seemingly the most successful of the three but she is deeply unhappy with her life. After going on a cruise to cheer herself up, things take a turn for the worse. Blackmail, kidnapping, divorce, marriage and an early appearance by Humphrey Bogart all combine to make this one of the quintessential Pre-Code movies.
Some of the recurring early 30’s themes might seem dated these days, but I guess one has to look past them to enjoy the films. Because they are indeed endlessly enjoyable. A Pre-Code marathon is something one just has to have at some point.