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Three Wise Girls

Three Wise Girls(1932)

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teaser Three Wise Girls (1932)

Three Wise Girls (1932) stars beautiful Jean Harlow as Cassie, a nave small-town girl who follows her old friend Gladys (Mae Clarke) to the Big Apple looking for excitement. Taking an apartment with sensible roommate Dot (Marie Prevost), Cassie soon discovers that life in the big city isn't as glamorous as she had hoped. After landing a job as a department store model to make ends meet, Cassie falls in love with Jerry (Walter Byron), a wealthy bon vivant who --unbeknownst to her -- is married. Cassie, Gladys and Dot juggle romantic troubles while trying to keep their heads above water in this serio-comic morality tale from Columbia Pictures.

Based on the story Blonde Baby by Wilson Collison, Three Wise Girls has the distinction of being the first film on which Jean Harlow received top billing. It was also the last film she ever made for Columbia. According to biographer Eve Golden in her biography, Platinum Girl: The Life and Legends of Jean Harlow, the actress was unhappy with this project, which was an uneven mixture of soap opera theatrics and streetwise humor. "Whereas she'd been groomed as a society debutante in Platinum Blonde [1931]," Golden noted, "Jean looked more like a cheap hooker than a small-town belle in Three Wise Girls. Her eyes were heavily shadowed and her mouth done up in a nearly black cupid's bow, which Jean took as a bad sign. If her makeup was beginning to backslide, could her career be far behind?" Harlow may have had additional reasons to worry since her two co-stars Mae Clarke and Marie Prevost had scene-stealing supporting roles.

When Three Wise Girls opened in theatres, the New York Times displayed little enthusiasm in its review, calling it "a nursery primer on the alleged perils of a big city. It shows in easy symbols that gingham is plain but honest." Variety was not especially complimentary either, noting that Harlow "does her best to suggest the innocent young thing and does better than might be expected. But she fails to be convincing and Mae Clarke takes the acting honors from her, even with her stilted speeches."

Nevertheless, Harlow, whose career had been building since her memorable appearances in films like The Public Enemy and Platinum Blonde (both 1931), was finally reaching movie star status. With Three Wise Girls she proved that she could carry an entire film on her name alone, even if it didn't achieve the critical or box office success her films would have just a short time later at MGM, where she remained until her untimely death in 1937.

Director: William Beaudine
Screenplay: Wilson Collison (story); Agnes Christine Johnston (adaptation); Robert Riskin (dialogue)
Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff
Film Editing: Jack Dennis
Cast: Jean Harlow (Cassie Barnes), Mae Clarke (Gladys Kane), Walter Byron (Jerry Dexter), Marie Prevost (Dot); Andy Devine (Jimmy Callahan - Chauffeur), Natalie Moorhead (Ruth Dexter), Jameson Thomas (Arthur Phelps), Lucy Beaumont (Mrs. Barnes, Cassie's Mother), Kathrin Clare Ward (Mrs. Kane), Robert Dudley (Lem - the Druggist).

by Andrea Passafiume

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