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DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE (director: Harry Beaumont; screenwriter: story by Aurania Rouverol/Aurania Rouverol/Richard Schayer; cinematographer: Charles Rosher; editor: George Hively; cast: Joan Crawford (Bonnie Jordan, aka Mary Smith), Lester Vail (‘Bob’ Townsend), Cliff Edwards (Bert Scranton, reporter), William Bakewell (Rodney Jordan), Earl Foxe (Wally Baxter), Purnell Pratt (Parker), William Holden (Stanley Jordan), Clark Gable (Jake Luva); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; MGM; 1931)
“Briskly made pre-Code melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Harry Beaumont directs a bizarre gangster film that’s based loosely on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and the Jake Lingle murder case in Chicago. A young Clark Gable was sixth-billed, while Joan Crawford emerges as a silent screen star to become a star in talkies. It’s taken from a story by Aurania Rouverol, who provides the screenplay along with Richard Schayer. It’s a briskly made pre-Code melodrama that has enough sex, romance and suspense to be a crowd-pleaser.

The film opens aboard a docked boat where the socialite set party, with the oldsters playing cards and the youngsters swimming in their undies. The next day the stock market crashes (the crash of 1929) and Stanley Jordan (William Holden) drops dead from a heart attack. His spoiled children Rodney (William Bakewell) and Bonnie (Joan Crawford) find they are suddenly penniless and unsuited to work in the real world. They have to move out of their mansion, sell their furniture in an auction to their acquaintances, and give up their yacht. Bonnie’s wealthy boyfriend Bob Townsend (Lester Vail) proposes marriage out of a sense of duty, but is turned down because Bonnie asks him to kiss her and doesn’t feel any passion and does not want him to marry her out of pity. She gets a job as a reporter on a paper through one of her father’s friends, while Rodney’s bootlegger pal Wally (Earl Foxe) gets him a job with his boss–the ruthless bootlegger king Jake Luva (Clark Gable)–to sell liquor to his former social register friends.

The rival Olansky gang is slaughtered in a garage by Jake’s goons in a similar fashion to the real St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Rodney was the car driver and out of fear, drink and guilt blabs to Bonnie’s newspaper friend, reporter Bert Scranton (Cliff Edwards). Jake thereby orders Rodney to shoot Scranton or be killed, and he follows this preposterous order. Bonnie takes the name Mary Smith and goes undercover on assignment to find the killer, and becomes a dancer in one of Jake’s clubs. She happens to overhear her brother Rodney call Jake on the phone and mention he was the killer. When she visits her obnoxious brother at their apartment, Jake is waiting there to kidnap her. When Rodney comes in, Jake and Rodney are both killed in a shootout as Rodney redeems himself to save his sister’s life. Bonnie calls her editor and tells him the full story, that her brother killed Scranton. The film concludes when Bonnie quits the paper and agrees to marry Bob, after they go through another one of those kiss tests.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”