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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

New Warner Archive Releases: Famous in the Thirties

New to DVD! Warner Archive has released a fun little pre-code gem with popular 1930s stars Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell as a pair of gold diggers with hearts of gold in Kansas City Princess (1934). This is a basic tale of manicurists on the run from the mob (yup, that's right). Rosie (Blondell of Blonde Crazy) loses her diamond engagement ring from mobster Dynamite Carson (Robert Armstrong of King Kong) to a slick operator with whom she goes on an illicit date. So, naturally, she does the sensible thing and takes it on the lam with her best gal pal. Wackiness ensues, and you've got a typical comedic romp from the 1930s.

Blondell is more than enough to make any comedy of the era worth watching, but this production is doubly so with the addition of the wonderful Glenda Farrell (of "Torchy Blane" fame) as gal pal Marie. They two go undercover as Girl Scouts and naturally head to New York. When their cover gets blown, they attach themselves to cuckolded millionaire Junior Ashcroft (Hugh Herbert of Footlight Parade) and talk their way onto a transatlantic voyage (as one does when in trouble in NYC in the 1930s). Things are looking rosy until they meet Junior's new bodyguard, the one guy they're trying to get away from, Dynamite Carson. Okay. So, it's not Shakespeare, but it's exactly the kind of crazy antics audiences loved to suspend their disbelief for during the days of the Great Depression.

Joan and Glenda are in fine comic form in this rollicking fable that climaxes with a table-turning triumph in the boudoirs of Paris (try and say that three times fast). These are two lovely ladies who had the ability to be feisty, fun, and charmingly funny in a style that is just shy of burlesque but absent of any off-putting crudity. That in itself is a great talent that should be celebrated. And both ladies did enjoy the fame that those talents brought, while those talents remained in vogue. But fashion, whether in the boudoir or on the screen, does have a habit of changing. Screen comedy evolved to be more veiled and family friendly, Blondell evolved into a reliable second banana, and Farrell would evolve into a TV version of Joan Blondell, playing the sharped tongue secretary or leading lady's wise cracking gal pal.

Do yourself a favor and lap up as much of 1930s comedy as you can. And you might might as well start with Kansas City Princess. Then make your way to other Blondell and Farrell films. Not only are you bound to discover a wealth of cinematic gems, but you're guaranteed to enjoy a plethera of comedy previously unknown to you. What a wonderful adventure!

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