Saturday, November 20, 2021

Stubs - Beauty and the Boss

Beauty and The Boss (1932) Starring: Marian Marsh, David Manners, Warren William, Charles Butterworth Directed by Roy Del Ruth Screenplay by Joseph Jackson Based on the play A Templom Egere by Ladislaus Fodor (Budapest, 2 Dec 1927). Producer (None Credited). Run time: 66 minutes. USA Black and White. Pre-Code, Comedy.

Violet Ethelred Krauth had a bit of a meteoric rise in Hollywood. Her film career began in 1928 when she was only 15. While she was still attending Hollywood High, Marian had approached a silent movie actress, Nancy O’Neil, who gave her speech and movement lessons. That lead to appearances in short subjects produced by Pathé, where she used the name Marilyn Morgan.

After some bit parts in films like Hell’s Angels (1930) and Eddie Cantor's lavish Technicolor musical Whoopee! (1930), she was signed by Warner Bros. and rechristened as Marian Marsh. The following year, after appearing in more shorts, Marsh landed a role in Svengali (1931) opposite John Barrymore, partially because she resembled his wife.

Even before her second Warner Bros. film was released, Marsh had been awarded the title of WAMPAS Baby Stars in August 1931. Marsh would star in a series of successful films from her studio including Five Star Final (1931) with Edward G. Robinson, The Mad Genius (1931) with Barrymore, The Road to Singapore (1931) with William Powell, Under 18 (1932) with Warren William, and Alias the Doctor (1932) with Richard Barthelmess. Despite William being nicknamed the "King of the Pre-Code", he is not given top billing in this film, that distinction went to Marsh.

Beauty and the Boss is based on the 1927 Hungarian play A Templom Egere by Ladislaus Fodor and an English language adaptation called A Church Mouse by Frederic and Fanny Hatton was presented by William A. Brady and opened in New York on October 12, 1931. This was actually the second film adaptation, the first being the German film Arm wie eine Kirchenmaus (1931), directed by Richard Oswald. Filmed during the end of 1931 and until January 1932, Beauty and the Boss opened on April 9, 1932. Originally 75 minutes, the version watched was 66 minutes.

Baron Josef von Ullrich (Warren William) is all business.

The film opens with the arrival back in Vienna of International banker Baron Josef von Ullrich (Warren William). He is all business during the day and believes that beautiful women have no place in an office. Their proper place, according to the baron, is entertaining men in the evening. When his attractive secretary, Olive “Ollie” Frey (Mary Doran) proves to be too much of a distraction, thanks to her low cut dress and shapely legs, he fires her.

When the Baron notices Ollie's (Mary Doran) legs, he fires her.

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: I thought it made men happy at their work to see a pretty woman about?

Baron Josef von Ullrich: Men don't come here to be happy. They come tarn their daily bread. Women are for non-working hours. And you're much too pretty and soft and seductive! You distract me!

But as soon as he does fire her, he asks her out, promising to continue their relationship after hours and when the mood strikes him.

Susie Sachs (Marian Marsh) appears dreaming of eating.

Susie Sachs (Marian Marsh) is starving and in desperate need of a job. When she hears about this opening, she fakes her way into the baron’s office, pretending to be a waitress bringing him his lunch. He has no plans to hire her, at least not at first. When she goes into her struggles and what it is like to be poor and hungry, he takes an interest. She tells him about her food fantasies, which she manages to satiate with sardines. She is a “church mouse” as compared to her predecessor. Gaunt and dressed in unflattering and well-worn attire, she fits into the Baron’s new edict for women in the workplace. When she proves that she can take dictation as fast as he can give it, he hires her on the spot.

Susie proves her efficiency and is hired on the spot.

She quickly takes charge, organizes his work, and protects him from many distractions, including a long line of women who call for him. The most persistent one is Girl in Bathtub (Yola d'Avril), who we see calling him several times during the film.

Girl in Bathtub (Yola d'Avril) is a frequent caller.

Susie’s skills are put to the test when the Baron and his retinue leave for Paris to complete a business merger. Showing up at the airport is Ollie, whom Susie directs to the wrong plane. With the Baron are his brother Paul (David Manners), his assistant Ludwig (Charles Butterworth), and Count Von Tolheim (Frederick Kerr). The count is a retired gentleman who seems more interested in wine and women than in making money, though the Baron is hopeful he can turn him around.

Count Von Tolheim: Thirty years ago, I decided to devote myself entirely to beautiful young women and fine old wines. Since then, I've always been intoxicated by one or the other.

Susie fielding calls from women trying to get the Baron.

Ollie does not take Susie’s rebuff well and shows up in Paris to see the Baron whenever he’s available, something Susie keeps from him. She adds her name to a long list of people to keep away from the Baron.

Ollie gives Susie tips on flirting with a man.

When he discovers this, he makes Susie pick up flowers and deliver them personally to Ollie with his compliments. Ollie is on the phone to the Baron when Susie arrives with a large flower box. Ollie gives Susie some advice on how to be more womanly, demonstrating some flirtation techniques.

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: Don't you think his heart beats faster when I leaned against him by accident.

Susie Sachs: By accident?

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: By intentional accident. And how men love it! It's like this. A quick movement! Your hand touches his for a breathtaking second. You pull away and say naively, "Oh, pardon me." He murmurs something.

Susie Sachs: I wonder...

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: The air is charged with electricity! He struggles for his self-control. Just as he almost has it...

Susie Sachs: Yes?

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: You start all over again and then his arms begin to ache to hold you. They steal around and if you're a smart girl you say, "Oh, no, you mustn't."

Susie Sachs: And then he stops?

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: Stops? Of course, he doesn't stop. He goes on! He pulls you closer. You struggle! But, not much.

Susie Sachs: What does he say?

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: Oh, it doesn't matter. You don't care! Your head begins to whirl. A delicious faintness sweeps over you. His eyes burn into yours.

Susie Sachs: His eyes!

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: His mouth comes closer. You are limp. You resist no more. Your eyelashes flutter down. You can see no longer. All you know is the wonderful strength of his embrace!

Susie Sachs: And then?

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: He kisses you!

Susie Sachs: And then?

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: And then - say, just how far do you want me to go?

It is only after giving Susie help does Ollie discover Susie has brought her carrots instead of flowers.

Count Von Tolheim (Frederick Kerr) looks forward to escorting Susie around Paris.

With the merger a success, the Baron sends his staff off to enjoy themselves. Susie, dressed to the nines, is supposed to go out on the town with the Count and Paul, the latter of whom is attracted to her. However, Susie has eyes for the Baron.

Susie uses some of the techniques she learned from Ollie on the Baron.

When he sees her transformed into a glamorous woman, he can’t keep his eyes off of her. She uses some of the flirtation techniques Ollie taught her on the Baron. He even gets randy with her to the point that she has to run around the furniture to escape his clutches. He is about to leap over a couch to get to her when Paul and the Count show up to take her out. The Baron can’t go with them because Susie, in another effort to keep him from Ollie, has booked the rest of his evening with meetings.

While they’re out, Susie flirts with the Count and with Paul but then steals a horse and carriage and drives off into the night. Paul and the Count take chase but cannot find her. They return to the hotel but the Baron sends them back out. Well, Paul anyway, as the Count goes to bed.

It is only after Paul has gone to look for her that Susie appears, having come back to the hotel. She tells him that she is hungry for life and he fires her. And again, makes a play for her as an ex-employee.

Distraught, Susie plans to return to Vienna, but before she can, the Baron asks her to take one last dictation for him. In it, he proposes marriage and Susie happily consents.

Upon seeing them, Ludwig has the last word.

Ludwig Pfeffer Jr.: [upon walking in on Baron Josef and Susie in a tight embrace] Hmmm. Looks like another merger to me.

It is interesting to note, that despite the screen time given his character, Warren William is not the headliner, Marsh is. However, the focus of the film is really William’s character. Considered the “King of the Pre-Code”, William would make a career playing the ruthless, amoral businessmen in films like Under 18 (1931), Skyscraper Souls (1932), The Match King (1932), and Employees' Entrance (1933). He seems to already have the patter down pat here. While his sexist attitudes would now certainly get him fired, back then they were accepted, even if they weren’t acceptable. You have to wonder why any woman would be attracted to a man with so little regard for the fairer sex.

David Manners, who plays his brother Paul, has an even smaller role, though he would get billing above William in this one. Manners was perhaps best known for his portrayal of John Harker in Dracula (1931). A protégé of James Whale, Manners would later appear in The Mummy (1932) directed by Karl Freund. Despite his billing, his role here is very small and inconsequential. He could be pulled out of the film and not be missed.

Marian Marsh, the Church Mouse turned glamour woman, was good in the role but I would have to imagine it could have been played by any number of other actresses at the time. If this was supposed to be a starring vehicle for her, she sort of gets overshadowed by William.

The person for me who steals the show, so to speak, is Charles Butterworth, who plays Ludwig. He is given some of the choicer lines and his delivery of them is spot on. A comedic actor, Butterworth would never be a star. He generally was a supporting actor, though he had top billing in We Went to College (1936), played the title role in Baby Face Harrington (1935), and shared top billing (as the Sultan) with Ann Corio in The Sultan's Daughter (1944). His role here adds a comedic touch that the film desperately needs.

Ollie's (Mary Doran) legs.

Like most pre-code films, when it comes to sex it is mostly all talk. Besides the glimpse of the Girl in Bathtub and Mary Doran’s legs, it is the dialogue that carries the sexual content. As an example, when the Baron ogles Ollie’s legs:

Baron Josef von Ullrich: Yes, I see it. But I've seen better.

Olive 'Ollie' Frey: But I didn't think you could see my, umm...

Baron Josef von Ullrich: No, of course not.

While audiences at the time might have been shocked by the sexual innuendos, it is interesting to note that it carried a TV-G rating when airing recently on TCM. My how times have changed.

The film has its moments, usually with Ludwig is on screen. Otherwise, it is a bit like most Warner Bros. films from this era, quick-paced and quick to a conclusion. As I stated earlier, you have to wonder what the attraction for Susie is to the Baron. Besides his money, he is cold and calculating. He either treats her like a machine or a sexual conquest, not as a person. One doesn’t have to think too far into the future to imagine this relationship blowing up when one or the other tires of their partner.

Overall, the film is really not worth seeking out. There are other pre-code films that are more fun to watch than Beauty and the Boss and your time would be better spent on them. Beauty and the Boss isn’t funny enough as a comedy nor scandalous as Pre-Code fare.

No comments:

Post a Comment