Thursday, November 17, 2011


Bow’s final screen appearance shows what a loss she was to movies. She retired at the height of her powers, aged 28, tired of picture-making (and of dieting). By Hoop-la, she’d conquered her sound-stage fright, and proves herself an irresistibly natural performer once again: saucy, snappy, and backed up by a well-practised silent technique through which to channel the tender inner life of traveling-circus belly-dancer Lou. Against a conscientiously evoked carny backdrop and a neat script by Moncure March, sensitive work is also done by Preston Foster also as circus manager Nifty, whose idée fixe is a better life for his son Chris than he stubbornly refused for himself. Throwing over his justifiably sour-tempered floozy for Chris’s sake, Nifty and Bow compete almost like spouses for the kid. Dad’s concern gets a bit over-sensitive at times (he and the boy are repeatedly posed like lovers) but this being pre-code, Nifty’s no match for the luscious Bow: she appears first at a crap game in glorious dishabille, and ends up in as outrageous a snake-dance costume as would not be seen again until Debra Paget in The Indian Tomb (1959), more than once demonstrating her favourite seduction technique (getting naked) in between. Reconciliation is inevitable, though surprisingly moving, and Bow’s final shot ever is a real emotional knockout.

d/p Frank Lloyd sc Joseph Moncure March, Bradley King ph Ernest Palmer cd Rita Kaufman cast Clara Bow, Preston Foster, Richard Cromwell, Minna Gombell, Herbert Mundin, Jamers Gleason, Richard Imhof
(1933, USA, 85m, b/w)
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