BLONDE CRAZY (director: Roy Del Ruth; screenwriter: based on a story by Kubee Glasmon and John Bright; cinematographers: Ernest Haller/Sid Hickox; editor: Ralph Dawson; cast: James Cagney (Bert Harris), Joan Blondell (Anne Roberts), Louis Calhern (Dapper Dan Barker), Noel Francis (Helen Wilson), Ray Milland (Joe Reynolds), Guy Kibbee (A. Rupert Johnson, Jr.), Maude Eburne (Mrs. Snyder), Polly Walters (Peggy), Nat Pendleton (Hank, aka Pete); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; Warner Bros. Pictures; 1931)
“A lively but dated grifter flick.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A lively but dated grifter flick. It’s directed by Roy Del Ruth (“Taxi!”/”The West Point Story”/”Lady Killer”), and is based on a story by Kubee Glasmon and John Bright. It’s an amoral pre-Hays Code movie, and there’s plenty of slick dialogue, face slapping and racy scenes. James Cagney stars as Bert Harris, a wisecracking punkish hustler bellhop in a small town hotel. Joan Blondell plays Anne Roberts, a feisty and sexy chambermaid that Bert through deception gets hired in his hotel to work in the linen room. She is lured into being his partner in a shake down of cheating men and other illegal get-rich-quick schemes, including bootlegging. One of their vics is traveling jewelry salesman A. Rupert Johnson, Jr. (Guy Kibbee), caught by an impostor highway patrolman (Nat Pendleton) parking with the supposedly married Anne and drinking illegal booze.

The cheating duo take their act to the big city, and more than meet their match in big time swindler Dapper Dan Barker (Louis Calhern), whose specialty is passing counterfeit $20 bills. Bert loses their grifter profits of $5,000 to Dapper Dan when he buys funny money and his real money is cleverly snatched from him. To make up for his loss of the $5,000, Bert works a scheme to steal a diamond bracelet and then gets even with Dapper Dan by luring him into a phony racing scam. The shady blonde is upset with her dishonest life and deserts her main man to marry Joe Reynolds (Ray Miland), a young broker of a good family. A year later Anne asks Bert to help her Wall Street banker hubby, who embezzled and lost $30,000. Bert works out a plan to rob Joe’s office safe, therefore no one would suspect him of the embezzlement. But Joe informs the cops, who wait for Bert to exit and then when he escapes they wound him in a car chase. While recovering in the jail hospital, Anne visits and vows her love for Bert. Even though Bert will serve time in prison and Joe is free, the Depression-era audience is led to believe that Bert is a more honorable man than the dirty rat Joe.

The film’s charm is enhanced by the energetic performances by Cagney and Blondell. This type of a wise guy role is tailor-made for Cagney, who gets a kick out of being such a no good unapologetic rascal.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”