STRANGE LOVE OF MOLLY LOUVAIN, THE (director: Micheal Curtiz; screenwriters: based on Maurine Watkins’s play “Tinsel Girl”/Erwin Gelsey/Brown Holmes; cinematographer: Robert Kurrle; editor: James Morley; music: Bernhard Kaun; cast: Ann Dvorak (Molly Louvain), Lee Tracy (Scotty Cornell), Guy Kibbee (Pop), Frank McHugh (Skeets), Charles Middleton (Captain Slade), Willard Robertson (Sergeant Murdock), C. Henry Gordon (Detective Martin), Leslie Fenton (Nick Grant), Richard Cromwell (Jimmy), Claire McDowell (Mrs. Schiller), Ralph Rogers (Donald Dillaway), Snub Pollard (B. J. Pratt, Bill Collector), J. Farrell MacDonald (Police Sergeant J.B. Antrim), Louise Beavers (Washroom Attendant), Mary Doran (Dance Hall girl), Evalyn Knapp (Sally); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Warner Archive Collection; 1932)
“Disappointing and unbelievable sordid crime drama.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Micheal Curtiz (“Casablanca”/”Captain Blood”/”The Sea Hawk”)directs this disappointing and unbelievable sordid crime drama based onMaurine Watkins’s play “Tinsel Girl,” that’s at least Warner Brothers breezy. Because it’s a pre-Code film, writers Erwin Gelsey and Brown Holmes keep it racy (plenty of leg showing and sexual innuendos tossed around as easily as a salad).
Twentysomething cigar counter girl at a small hotel, Molly Louvain (Ann Dvorak), who is still bitter mom abandoned her twelve years ago, is ditched by the wealthy Ralph Rogers (Donald Dillaway). The $64 question is why she then on the rebound runs off with petty criminal traveling salesman Nick Grant (Leslie Fenton), whom she doesn’t love and knows he’s a creep. Three years later, in 1932, she dumps him because he’s a hopeless rotten egg and abandons her three year old daughter, courtesy of Ralphie boy, who doesn’t know he’s a father, to be taken care of by the reliable Mrs. Schiller (Claire McDowell) while she works as a dance hall hostess in Chicago’s Roseland. There she accidentally meets the incredibly naive Jimmy (Richard Cromwell), the young bellboy from the hotel, now a college student, who is smitten with her. Outside the dance hall, an agitated drunken Nick talks Molly and Jimmy into taking a ride with him (it doesn’t even dawn on the two knuckleheads that it’s not a good idea to accept a ride with a drunk, especially since wifey knows he doesn’t own a car). It turns out the car is stolen and Nick is wanted for a series of robberies. When the hot car is spotted parked by a grocery store, Nick runs down the street and gets into a shootout with the coppers. After Nick kills a copper, he’s captured when he takes a bullet to his noggin.
Jimmy and Molly escape in the car, with the police getting her name from Nick as an accomplice before he became unconscious. The young couple take a room together in a rooming house, and she dyes her hair blonde to fool the APB put out on her. Wisecracking and fast-talking cynical reporter Scotty Cornell (Lee Tracy) lives across the hall, and believes Molly is a fast-type of tinsel girl and wants to have an affair with the cutie; while Jimmy offers her marriage. Molly after accepting Jimmy’s proposal, though not loving him, decides instead to run away to Paris or Hollywood with Scotty. She now tortures herself that she’s just like her mom who abandoned her–a bad woman.
Scotty concocts a plan to bring Molly out of hiding, not knowing that’s the same Molly he’s running away with. The plan is to announce over the radio that Molly’s little girl is dying and wants her mommy. Concerned about her child, Molly gives herself up to the police (she really is a dummy!). The reporter, who claims he knows women, then decides she must be a decent chick after all because she shows her maternal instincts despite the consequences and promises to do all he can as a reporter to square things for her with the law, and this now passes off as a sincere love affair for Molly.
When the title tells us about Molly’s strange love, they’re not kidding. This creepy melodrama about a dumb chick who gets pregnant and abandoned by an upper-crust playboy boyfriend and then goes galloping off with a punky thug, is not only uninvolving but a sham of a story.
REVIEWED ON 1/11/2011 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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