Dance, Fools, Dance (1931) is a pre-code Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer feature film starring Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, and Lester Vail in a story about a reporter investigating the murder of a colleague. Story and dialogue were created by Aurania Rouverol, and the film was directed by Harry Beaumont. Dance, Fools, Dance was the first of eight cinematic collaborations between Crawford and Gable.
“Dance, Fools, Dance” is clearly based on two infamous incidents in Chicago crime history: the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in a garage and the June 9, 1930 murder of Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle, shot while heading to a train station.However, unlike the movie’s Bert Scranton, Lingle was a shady character who played both sides of the law and had parlayed a $65 a week salary into a $60,000 income. In journalistic terms Lingle was known as a legman who would telephone in the salient details of the story which would be actually written by a rewrite man. This is what happens when Crawford’s Bonnie phones in her story after the shootout.
Photoplay commented, “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.” A.D.S. noted in the New York Times, Miss Crawford’s acting is still self-conscious, but her admirers will find her performance well up to her standard.
Dancing, fighting, undies, what more could you want?
16 August 2001 | by (email@example.com) (st. pete, fl usa) – See all my reviews
This is the third Crawford film that I have seen, the others were “Whatever happened to Baby Jane” and “Mildred Pierce”. What a beauty she was back then and what a personality too. Much different than the one she would show later in her film career. This movie was a joy to watch.
This is a story about a girl who’s wealthy father dies leaving her and brother penniless. She finds a job as a reporter and her brother a job as a bootlegger with the mob. Newcomer Clark Gable plays the head of the mob. Trouble happens and kid brother talks then sister comes running to help, though she has to deal with Gable first. This is the movie that put Gable on the map. It would be the first of nine films they would star together at M-G-M.
The storyline is typical but Crawford and Gable made it good. The supporting cast is good as well. This was Lester Vail’s first film(though he only made four more). William Bakewell, playing the brother, was funny when he was telling Bonnie to become a runway model and did that strike a pose! Hello!!
I would recommend this film to anyone who wants a glimpse into Crawford’s early work.
Good Old Thing
“Dance, Fools, Dance” is one of the better movies of 1931. Its topics (the spoiled and not-so- spoiled rich, the choices we make between the easy way and the hard way, alcoholism, the newspaper and bootlegging games) have ongoing resonance; it moves swiftly; Joan Crawford is beautiful and arresting even if she gets a little too arch with some of her line readings in the early scenes; the main supporting players are all distinct and effective representatives of their types; the dialogue is frequently snappy.
Bonnie Jordan, a passionate young socialite (Crawford), is introduced saying to her boyfriend during a dull midnight party on a yacht, “If something doesn’t happen, l’ll die!” whereupon the boyfriend suggests that all of the young hedonists strip and jump into the ocean for kicks. Since this was 1930, they only strip to their fancy underwear, but the point is made. These are flaming and privileged youth who just wanted to have fun. Unfortunately for Bonnie and her alcoholic brother Rodney (William Bakewell – whatever happened to him? He is terrific in this) their indulgent father drops dead after taking a beating on the stock market and they are left penniless (which in MGM terms translates into sharing a high-ceilinged two-bedroom apartment) and—to the horror of the son—have to get jobs. Bonnie, the more mature of the pair, uses a family social connection to land a spot as a cub reporter covering garden parties and the like for the city newspaper where she befriends a fellow newshound (Cliff Edwards at his peculiar best). Good newsroom shot: The camera pans from one typewriter to another revealing each reporter’s story as it’s being banged out. Meanwhile, Rodney, desperate to make easy money, agrees to drum up business for a hardened bootlegger (Clark Gable) by persuading his wealthy liquor-consuming former friends to switch to Gable’s suppliers. This all leads to big trouble, eventually involving Bonnie, which in turns leads to Gable and Crawford in their first screen pairing.
And now for the highlight of the film: Gable and Crawford are now displayed front and center on a sofa in Gable’s lair. The screen smolders as these two ferally attractive and impeccably decorated young stars go to it – rugged Gable in starched white shirt and black jacket; Crawford in her shimmering satin; he forcing kiss after kiss, first on each of her cheeks as she tries to turn her lips away from his, and then finally hitting the mark. Cinema magic. Another kind of intensity emanates from Natalie Moorhead, as Gable’s erstwhile female companion, who gives him the eye as she blows out the flame of his cigarette lighter. Moorhead always made the most of her limited screen time (no more than a few minutes here).
Oh, and we get to see Crawford do one of those lead-footed dances she was forced to perform in early talkies. She has energy, spirit and determination to spare but very little grace.
Terrific Early Crawford Vehicle
Author: Ian Sowers from Switzerland
27 March 2004
I disagree strongly with anyone who might dismiss this film as “just” entertainment. Set right after the carefree, roaring 20s, during the early days of the Great Depression, Dance, Fools, Dance is at its heart an earnest cautionary tale, with a clear message about how best to endure these hard times. Yet this fast-paced and tightly-plotted film is far from being a dreary morality tale.
In the 30s, Hollywood had a knack for churning out one entertaining *and* enlightening audience-pleaser after another, all without wasting a frame of film. Dance, Fools, Dance — one of *four* films that Harry Beaumont directed in 1931 — is barely 80 minutes long, yet its characters are well developed, its story never seems rushed, and despite its many twists in plot, the audience is never left behind.
With the lone exception of Lester Vail as flaccid love interest Bob Townsend, the supporting cast is uniformly strong. Worthy of note are William Bakewell as Crawford’s brother, Cliff Edwards (best known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket) as reporter Bert Scranton, and Clark Gable in an early supporting role as gangster Jake Luva.
But this is Joan Crawford’s film, and she absolutely shines in it. Made when she was just 27, this lesser-known version of Crawford will probably be unrecognizable to those more familiar with her later work. However, here is proof that long before she took home an Oscar for Mildred Pierce, Crawford was a star in the true sense of the word, a terrific actress with the charisma to carry a picture all by herself.
Score: EIGHT out of TEN