OK, it’s been a dry year, but I’m through with life stuff and am now ready to put the “blah” back in blog. Why? Because I forgot that I live within an hour of the AFI Silver
and last night I finally got to see Three on a Match
on the big screen.
Weighing in at 63 minutes, Three on a Match
packs enough pre-code
“ripped-from-the-headlines” Warner Bros
. modern society grit to make Stanley Kramer
cry. I've only ever seen it tiny and loved it then, so when I saw Joan Blondell,
25 feet tall, take the stairs in the reform school scene I was in heaven. It’s not a great
picture, but it’s an important one. The women are real, flawed, and sympathetic — even the bored socialite whose terrible decisions are redeemed by one terribly correct one.
It's the story of three classmates at a public school in New York who each grow up to carve out a life from the circumstances they're born in: a good-time girl (Joan Blondell, natch) who enjoys life, makes a few stupid choices, then finds her place on the stage; a practical girl (eventually Bette Davis), who heads straight for secretarial school and independence; and a well-heeled girl (first Anne Shirley
, then Ann Dvorak
), who has every advantage, but can't find happiness. The structure is very Dos Passos USA Trilogy
, full of context-setting headlines and newsreel footage. I love it for it's sheer now
-ness and for the fondness the women have for one another and the paths they take.
And in my humble O, it's Humphrey Bogart'
s most chilling, understated performance. He's thrilling, and is (dare I say) kind of hot in his shark-like coldness; something impossible for me to conceive of him after 1942.
A cigarette card doesn't lie.
I only found out about this showing because my boss, a man with whom I have several peculiar (co)incidental people and locations in common, told me his friend was doing a book signing at the Silver for the book she’d written (and which I’d already bought) about her father, Lyle Talbot
, whose films they are showcasing all week. Lyle plays the attractive weakling in Three on a Match
, one of his first pictures, and went on to play similarly flawed, handsome bad choices thereafter. He and Ann Dvorak were paired many times at Warner's, but neither of them caught on as leading players. Personally, I think Dvorak would have been a better silent actress; she was so expressive physically, but sound didn’t do her many favors. I’ve always liked Lyle Talbot and can’t help comparing him, career-wise, to Dan Duryea
, also a marvelous actor who also played ne-er-do-wells whose sweetness (however hidden) was continually overtaken by weakness.
’s book, The Entertainer
, is a real page-turner. It covers the entire landscape of American popular entertainment of the 20th century — her father’s century — with a journalist’s detail and a child’s affection. It’s a beautiful book about the joyful, grueling work of entertainment, the utter need Americans have always had for it, and the personal story of one man who loved providing it. Thank goodness there are writers like Margaret Talbot and venues like the AFI Silver.
Plus getting the book signed last night is the closest I’m ever going to get to Glenda Farrell