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"It (Dance, Fools, Dance) was a disaster! I gave a lousy performance,
the overacting thing again." -Joan Crawford

"Dance, Fools, Dance" 1931

Cast: Joan Crawford (as Bonnie 'Bon' Jordan, aka Mary Smith), Lester Veil, Cliff Edwards, William Bakewell, William Holden, Clark Gable, Earle Foxe, Purnell P. Pratt, Hale Hamilton, Natalie Moorehead, Joan Marsh, Russell Hopton, Clara Blandick

Release date - February 21, 1931

Running time - 82 minutes (9 reels)

Directed by - Harry Beaumont

Writing Credits - Aurania Rouverol and Richard Schayer (continuity)

Producer - Unknown

Cinematographer - Charles Rosher

Costumes - Adrian

Studio - MGM

Production Dates - Began November 4, 1930


Movie Synopsis

Bonnie Jordan (Joan), formerly a spoiled, carefree socialite, is faced with poverty and hard work when her father, Stanley Jordan (William Holden), dies of a heart attack during the stock market crash of 1929. Though she in in love with Robert "Bob" Townsend (Lester Vail), she refuses his proposal of marriage, because he offers it merely as "the gentlemanly thing to do."

Instead, she goes to work as a cub reporter on the "New York Star." Her brother Rodney (William Bakewell) takes an easier way out by helping bootlegger Jake Luva (Clark Gable) peddle his liquor to Rodney's wealthy friends. Bonnie grows to love her work and is befriended by Bert Scranton (Cliff Edwards), the Star 's top reporter.

When a group of bootleggers are murdered, both Bert and Bonnie are assigned different aspects of the case. While investigating the crime, Bert unwittingly encounters Rodney, who, realizing that Luva is responsible for the murders, lets information about his gang slip out. When Luva hears about it, he tells Rodney that the only way out is to shoot Bert or be shot himself. Though he doesn't want to do it, his own fear leads him to kill Bert. Bonnie, who doesn't know about Rodney's connection to Luva, is then assigned by her editor to infiltrate Luva's gang and find out who actually did the murder, as all of his gang have airtight alibis. She gets a job as a dancer in Luva's nightclub, posing as "Mary Smith" from Kansas City, and although both Rodney and Bob see her at the club, Luva doesn't know her real identity.

One evening Luva invites her to his apartment to seduce her. She goes along with him, hoping to get her story, but when she answers his phone and hears Rodney's voice, she realizes the extent of her brother's involvement and tries to leave. When Rodney arrives, the three argue and Rodney kills Luva, but is killed himself, trying to protect Bonnie. Bonnie then phones in the real story to the Star. The next day her boss and others at the paper try to discourage her from leaving, but she feels that she must. As she walks out, Bob finds her and proposes again, this time for real, and as they kiss, some of her friends on the paper capture the moment for the announcement of their marriage on the society pages.


Interesting Trivia

The powerful combo of Crawford/Gable starred together for the very first time here, however, this is technically their second film. It's often mistakenly referred to as their first (it's their first starring roles together), but they were both extras in The Merry Widow (1925).

The film cost approximately $289,000 to make and the Joan Crawford / Clark Gable combination ensured it made a profit of close to one million dollars.

Funnily enough, both Joan and Clark Gable had initial insecurities in working with each other so closely. Joan explains her feelings on playing opposite Gable: "The first time I met him, I was terrified. I kept thinking, 'He is a stage actor. He knows how to read lines. I am suffering by comparison. He's laughing at me." Gable later confessed he had similar anxieties about working with Joan: "She's a star. She knows all the ropes in pictures. She's laughing at me." [www.afi.com].

Clara Blandick had a bit part and was uncredited in this film. A successful stage actress, and with over 100 films to her credit, she is best remembered as Dorothy's beloved 'Auntie Em' in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939). On Palm Sunday, April 15th, 1962, she went to church as usual, then came home, fixed her hair, put on her best outfit and scattered her room with family photographs. She then took an overdose of sleeping pills and pulled a plastic bag over her head. She was 80 years old and had been suffering poor health for years, severe arthritis and imminent blindness had taken it's toll. She left a note explaining that she was about to embark on the greatest adventure of her life. [www.imdb.com].

The William Holden playing Joan's father in this film was an early character actor who died as a result of a stroke in 1932, just one year after this film's release. He is not to be confused with the more well known William Holden.

The multiple murder which is part of the film's plot was loosely inspired by the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre that happened in Chicago in 1927. According to a news item in Film Daily on August 16, 1932, actress Lita Friede had been signed to appear in an M-G-M produced German-language version of this picture, however no additional information on such a production has been located.

Cost: $234K/Domestic Studio Gross: $848K/Foreign Studio Gross: $420K/ Profit:$524k

Box Office Receipts: $1,268,000.

Inflation Value in 2007: $15,819,780.60


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Reviewer, writerdonna7, says...

Review: "Dance, Fools, Dance" is one of my favorite early Crawford films. As a pre-code film of 1931 directed by Harry Beaumont, it is gently and deliciously risqué, and Crawford (in her early 20's here) is particularly adorable, vivacious and sexy with her gently waved hair, spit-curl, and big, long-lashed eyes. As Bonnie Jordan, she's a spoiled rich girl who becomes a cub reporter after the stock market crash leaves her family penniless (yes, the girl down on her luck who makes good, her staple role at this stage in her career). Her assignment is to infiltrate the gang who murdered fellow reporter and friend, Scranton (Cliff Edwards), by posing as a dancer in the nightclub of gang leader Jake Luavo (Clark Gable). "Use any weapon you've got," her editor tells her. We all know what that means!

Gosh, if not the flirtatious and exhilarating tap dance number Crawford does as the new act, the sight of her walking confidently across the room towards Gable in a gold lame gown is worth the price of admission alone. When she meets the King, the sexual sparks fly like no one's business, their real attraction palpable. Gable is appropriately rugged and ruthless here and gives a very effective, hard-edged performance. Unbeknownst to our heroine, it is her own brother Rodney (William Bakewell) who unwittingly got caught up with the Mob and was forced to perform the contract hit on the reporter he'd earlier confided in (touching since brother and sister are both likeable good kids). Crawford plays the spunky, independent woman she is so good at, mirroring her own ambitions and tenacious spirit; she handles all the dramatic scenes well.

The pre-code moments are delicious such as when the beautiful Crawford is blow drying her hair after jumping from the deck of a yacht in her underwear (modest underwear, folks) and her boyfriend enters the room. They are both in their pajamas, Crawford in a glamorous satin jumpsuit. Before a seductive kiss, she assures him that she isn't old-fashioned and believes in trying out love on approval.

There are several interesting aspects of this film. For one, it's based on real events of the day, so it's a good window into the period. There aren't simplistic happy endings; the gangsters, however charming they may appear, are presented ultimately as sociopaths. For another, there's the absolutely combustible and electric chemistry of Gable and Crawford in their first pairing. Crawford is a free-spirited, yet practical heroine with courage and moxie -- that 30's staple, the girl reporter. It's clear why she was a reigning star of MGM and why she and Gable were paired together in 7 more films. Good pre-code fun and Joan at her cutest.

Four Stars

Other Reviews

"Photoplay" canned the movie but gave Joan a glowing review, saying, "Again, Joan Crawford proves herself a great dramatic actress. The story...is hokum, but it's good hokum and Joan breathes life into her characterization."

"The New York Times" said, "Miss Crawford's acting is still self-conscious, but her admirers will find her performance well up to standard."

If you have seen this movie, please write a review below. Once your review is submitted, I will post the review below. Thank you for your review on this film.

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