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The Pre-Code Era
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,Blonde Crazy

Blonde Crazy (1931)

"Jim's back!...and with a brand new line!" was the tag line for Blonde Crazy (1931), James Cagney's follow-up film to his break-out hit The Public Enemy (1931). That role had made Cagney a star and it also brought attention to his co-star in seven films, Joan Blondell. At the age of twenty-five, Blondell, like Cagney, had come from the New York stage and had been brought to Hollywood, like many other stage performers, at the advent of talking pictures.

As Matthew Kennedy wrote in his book Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes, "In August of 1931, Joan signed a new long-term contract at Warner Bros. amidst much hope for the future. Jack Wagner saw great promise in her, and it was his intention to focus on her potential for stardom...On consideration, Joan did not have to wait long for a major break; she was in Hollywood just over a year before Blonde Crazy came along. But already she was the veteran of eleven movies, and it must have seemed to her that she was bumping around that town forever...Blonde Crazy was the happy reunion of Blondell, Cagney, and writers Kubec Glasmon and John Bright, all contributors to The Public Enemy. And just as Blonde Crazy was shooting, Joan received the good news, in September of 1931, that the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers (WAMPAS) had selected her as one of Hollywood's "Baby Stars," i.e., a real up and comer. The WAMPAS honor was well timed. Joan had appeared in two movies, The Public Enemy and Night Nurse (1931), that would endure as classics of the Warner Bros. tradition, but Blonde Crazy was the first time she was given a movie worthy of her talent and a leading role. "

Blonde Crazy, the story of a couple of grifters who have the tables turned on them, was a typical quick shoot with a production turnaround of only a few weeks with a premiere on November 14, 1931. Blondell later remembered her long days at Warner Bros., "We started work at 5 in the morning, makeup, all that junk, then whammo on the nose! Straight over to the set at 8, knowing all your lines. We'd work clean through the day until after sundown, then on Saturday and always right through Saturday night. They'd bring in sandwiches like straw for the horses and we'd finally make it into bed on Sunday morning as the sun hit the pillows."

The combination of Cagney and Blondell scored a solid hit at the box office as well as with the critics. Variety described it as "Wise remarks, a fresh guy and dame stuff. Quick pace and a performance by James Cagney typically Cagney. These give Blonde Crazy a fast start and keep it going most of the way...Joan Blondell is Cagney's business partner - and what a business - who loves him in other ways besides biz but doesn't find that out until her marriage to a comparative nice boy proves a flop. Everything depends on the dialog and playing - both come through satisfactorily. Cagney and Blondell make a natural pair. Louis Calhern uses his long experience to good effect in a class cheater part."

Mordaunt Hall in the December 4, 1931 New York Times wrote, "Unedifying though the incidents are and feeble as is the attempt at a moral, the greater part of James Cagney's new picture, Blonde Crazy, which took possession of the Warners' Strand screen last night, is lively and cleverly acted...Mr. Cagney is as alert and pugnacious as Bert Harris as he was as the quick-thinking young gangster of The Public Enemy...Miss Blondell gives an efficient portrayal. Mr. Calhern is equal to the demands of his part. Guy Kibbee furnishes some laughs as one of Harris's victims. Noel Francis gives a satisfactory performance as Helen, the blonde to whom Dapper Dan is partial for a time."

Director: Roy Del Ruth
Screenplay: Kubec Glasmon and John Bright
Cinematography: Ernest Haller and Sid Hickox
Art Direction: Esdras Hartley
Film Editing: Ralph Dawson
Cast: Bert Harris (James Cagney), Anne Roberts (Joan Blondell), Dapper Dan Barker (Louis Calhern), Helen Wilson (Noel Francis), Joe Reynolds (Ray Milland).

by Lorraine LoBianco

Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes by Matthew Kennedy
The New York Times: The Screen December 4, 1931 by Mordaunt Hall
Variety Film Review 1931
The Internet Movie Database