Last month, I received 150 followers! But because of how much time and energy was devoted to writing my editorial for Pale Writer’s Gothic Horror Blogathon, I decided to publish this review in early November. The movie I selected, Platinum Blonde, was released on Halloween in 1931. Since I reviewed Vampyr for my previous blog follower dedication review, I chose Platinum Blonde because, based on the synopsis, it gives the impression that it has a lighter tone. It’s also the first movie of Jean Harlow’s that I’ve ever seen. I discovered this actress through The Jean Harlow Blogathon, hosted by the blogs Musings of a Classic Film Addict and The Wonderful World of Cinema. Even though I didn’t participate in this blogathon, I was introduced to Jean and her contributions to the world of film. Before I begin this review, I want to thank each and every one of my followers! I’m not only impressed by how quickly I reached this milestone, but also by your continued support of 18 Cinema Lane!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I was very impressed by the acting performances in Platinum Blonde! This is because all of the portrayals were consistent and expressive. One good example is Robert Williams’ performance. Throughout the film, his portrayal of Stew Smith was charismatic. He almost always had something witty to say and also had an appealing persona. Robert had good on-screen chemistry with both of his female co-stars as well. Jean Harlow had a pleasant on-screen presence while portraying Ann Schuyler. Her personality was charming and she helped create a character that was different from stereotypical expectations. Jean also had a good on-screen relationship with her co-stars. I really liked seeing this film’s supporting cast! Louise Closser Hale was a standout as Mrs. Schuyler! She was very expressive and her performance was memorable from start to finish! This cast would not have been the same without her.
The set design: Most of this story takes place in and around the Schuyler home. Despite this lack of variety in locations, the interior and exterior of the house was spectacular! The layout of the entryway and foyer reminded me of Norma Desmond’s house from Sunset Blvd., from the metal gate to the large, curving staircase. Everything in the Schuyler house was massive in scale. This environment represented how larger than life the family is. Even the small details found in the home highlighted this lavish lifestyle very well. One perfect example is the carved artwork on Ann and Stew’s headboard. While the exterior was shown on screen for a limited amount of time, it had a pleasant presence on film! In the scene where Ann and Stew share a kiss for the first time, the backyard appeared as a private oasis. From the lighted fountain to the flower arrangements, this space looked very inviting.
The cinematography: I wasn’t expecting anything special in Platinum Blonde when it came to the cinematography. But I was pleasantly surprised by the cinematography I did find in this film. In some scenes, when a character would walk up the stairs, the view from the camera looked down on the characters. This presented an illusion that the environment surrounding these individuals was grand in scale. Another scene that had interesting cinematography was when Mrs. Schuyler and the butler, Smythe, were on the balcony looking down on the living room. Because the camera angle came from a ground level perspective, it gave the audience the idea that most of Ann’s family looked down on Stew, both literally and figuratively. It also alluded to the differences in socio-economic standing.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Under-utilized characters: At the beginning of the film, the character of Bingy Baker was introduced. I thought he would experience one hilarious situation after another while also finding true love. Sadly, this particular character received a very minor role. It also seemed like he was there just for the sake of comic relief. Bingy is an example of how some characters in this movie were under-utilized. If this character were removed from the story, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
An unexplained conflict: The start of the film features a conflict about Ann’s brother’s, Michael’s, relationship with a dancer. This is how Stew came to be introduced to the Schuyler family. While the characters kept saying that the situation was bad, they failed to explain why it was bad. With the conflict of Ann and Stew getting married, the audience was given reasons why this was a problem through the visualization of certain events. But this was not the case for Michael’s conflict, as it evidently seemed to be swept under the rug.
A somewhat unhealthy relationship: As I already mentioned, Platinum Blonde’s major conflict revolved around Ann and Stew’s relationship. While there were times when it seemed like they cared about one another, there were also times when their relationship came across as unhealthy. For most of the film, Ann and Stew do not make compromises. The audience gets to see them talking to one another, but these two characters don’t communicate about important martial issues, such as which place they will call “home”. At one point, one member of this relationship becomes hypocritical toward their spouse. Even though this film was created in the early ‘30s, I still found elements of this relationship to be kind of concerning.
My overall impression:
On Wikipedia, Platinum Blonde is labeled as a “romantic comedy”. But, in reality, the movie is a cautionary “fish out of water” tale. The reason why I chose to review this film is because I thought it would be lighter in tone. However, Platinum Blonde wasn’t as light-hearted as I expected. Sure, there was at least one romance and some humorous moments. But it wasn’t enough to live up to the title of “romantic comedy”. Despite this disappointment, I did like some elements of this movie. One of these was the cinematography. Because of the camera angles, the scenery was not only complimented, but ideas and themes were able to visually present themselves. Platinum Blonde wasn’t the worst thing to be put to film, but it definitely could have been stronger.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
Are you a fan of Jean Harlow? Which film from the ‘30s do you want me to review? Tell me in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!