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Blonde Crazy (1931)


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Blonde Crazy (1931) is quintessential James Cagney.  He plays a bell hop turned con man who thinks everybody is cashing in except him in a Prohibition era of scams and get rich quick schemes, the actual events of which he clips from newspapers. To him, America is the land of larceny.  Joan Blondell plays Cagney's love interest and reluctant partner in crime.  The two have perfect screen chemistry. Together they pull off some nice jobs, until they meet a more polished operator, played by a smooth as silk Louis Calhern, who takes Cagney under his wing.


Cagney's persona consists of sneers, raised eyebrows, devilish grins, and muscle, when necessary.  His greatness as an actor, among other things, is his wonderful ad-libbing.  I loved the way he stretched out the word Honey – Hoooney!  - when calling out to Blondell.  Another nugget is the neat little shuffle he executes when exiting a room.


Ray Milland has a small role as a blue-blooded banker who tries to woo Blondell away from Cagney.  Milland shows early on he's quite good at capturing the deceptive malevolence he would portray to greater extent later in his career.


Blonde Crazy takes place in swank hotel ball rooms and romantic trains.  The film is a visual treat in portraying a time of style, wealth and loose morals that often lived alongside squalor, something Warner Bros. Pictures, where Blonde Crazy was made, did not hide.  The film is also where Cagney utters the immortal line "That dirty, double-crossin' rat!"


Pre-Code sexual banter flies quick and sharp out of the mouths of the two leads. The supporting cast of Noel Francis as Calhern's savvy, chic girlfriend, who sinks her clutches in Cagney, and Guy Kibbee as a lecherous salesman, round out the terrific ensemble. Blonde Crazy was directed by Roy Del Ruth, who had a long career in Hollywood working in a variety of genres.

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