The Girl from Missouri (1934)

“I know my singing and dancing won’t get me anywhere,” Jean Harlow tells friend Patsy Kelly. “I’m gonna get married.” Harlow is The Girl from Missouri, and in the picture’s opening moments she and Patsy flee their depressing small town gin joint surroundings and head to the City, where they take jobs as chorus girls and set about finding men. Harlow is determined to find a rich husband; Patsy is just as interested in meeting doormen and lifeguards.

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Lionel Barrymore is excellent as T.R. Paige, a millionaire who has worked his way up from nothing himself and sees Harlow as a “platinum chiseler” after his son; Franchot Tone is also good as Tom Paige, the son of that wealth whose eager pursuit of Harlow inspires her distrust and his father’s dismay. Will he propose to her? Will she accept him? Will Lionel accept her as a daughter-in-law? –All is complicated by Lionel’s political ambitions and by a ring Harlow has fashioned from a pair of cufflinks.

Patsy Kelly plays it (mostly) straight as Harlow’s friend and companion, and gives a solid performance. Lewis Stone has one poignant scene early on as a ruined businessman. The funniest scene belongs to Nat Pendleton as a beefy lifeguard who, when called, pops up from behind a boat on the sand….

Overall, though, it’s Jean Harlow’s show all the way—and she is charming, strong yet vulnerable, ultimately as tough and clever as Barrymore’s political schemer and a match for Tone and his charming grin. No classic, but good fun.

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Lionel Barrymore,

Gentlemen Prefer Platinum Blondes

7/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
17 September 2009

If the themes of The Girl From Missouri sound familiar it should. That’s because Anita Loos who wrote the screenplay here also wrote the classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Unlike Marilyn Monroe in that film, Jean Harlow will accept any kind of jewelry from men of means.

And it’s men of means that Jean Harlow is after. She leaves the road side hash house run by her mother and stepfather because she’s decided that the best way to gain the easy life is to marry it. Her talents as a chorus girl are limited, but she’ll be able to trade in on that beauty.

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Her odyssey starts with her and friend Patsy Kelly getting an invitation to perform at a party thrown by millionaire Lewis Stone. But unbeknownst to Jean, Stone’s just having a wild last fling before doing himself because of the moneys he owes not owns. Still she wrangles a few baubles from him that fellow millionaire Lionel Barrymore notices.

Lionel’s amused by it until Jean sets her sights on his playboy son, Franchot Tone. After that he is not amused and he looks to shake Jean from climbing the family tree.

The Girl From Missouri went into production mid adaption of The Code so it went under peculiar censorship. I’ve a feeling we would have seen a much more risqué film. Still Jean Harlow as a younger and sassier version of Mae West is always appreciated. What a great comic talent that woman had, seeing The Girl From Missouri is a sad reminder of the great loss the world of film sustained with her passing three years later.

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Ironically enough the casting of Patsy Kelly with Harlow was no doubt influenced by the successful shorts Kelly was making with another famous platinum blonde, Thelma Todd. Harlow and Kelly have the same easy chemistry between that Patsy had with Thelma. Todd would also die a year later in a freak accident/suicide/homicide that no satisfactory explanation has ever really been given.

Don’t miss The Girl From Missouri, it’s bright and sassy, must be from all that sparkling jewelry.

Eadie (Jean Harlow) runs away from her home in Missouri, where her stepfather had her working as a dance partner. On the train, she tells her man-hungry friend Kitty (Patsy Kelly) that she has ideals and plans to marry a somebody so she can accomplish something worthwhile.

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She lands a job as one of the chorus girls entertaining guests at a party at the mansion of wealthy Frank Cousins (Lewis Stone). There, she manages to see Cousins alone; oddly, he offers her expensive gifts (including an “authentic Cellini” sculpture that he keeps on his desk), but she refuses to accept them until they become engaged. She is surprised when he readily agrees. Unbeknownst to her, guest T.R. Paige (Lionel Barrymore) had just before refused to save Cousins from financial ruin. After Eadie leaves Cousins (with the expensive cufflinks he gave her), he shoots himself. However, the evening isn’t a total waste to Eadie; she becomes acquainted with T.R. when she gets him to retrieve the cufflinks from her stocking before the investigating policeman can ask embarrassing questions.

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Eadie visits her new friend at his workplace to thank him. When she says she has been fired and that she is determined to marry a rich man, an alarmed T.R. gives her some money and leaves for Palm Beach, Florida. Eadie and Kitty follow and visit T.R.’s office. Eadie is spotted in the waiting room by T.R.’s son Tom (Franchot Tone). Not knowing who he is, Eadie tries to brush him off, but he is very persistent. Eventually, she learns his identity, but remains cool to him, since it becomes clear that he is not interested in marriage. Tom finally manages to get her alone in his bedroom in the Paige mansion, but she defends her virtue and, to his surprise, he lets her go.

Tom tells his father that he wants to marry Eadie, despite her disreputable past. T.R. gives his blessing, but after Tom leaves, calls the district attorney. Tom tells Eadie they are going to get married. After he leaves however, a man sneaks into her apartment. Some photographers catch her in the stranger’s arms and the district attorney accuses her of stealing Cousins’ jewelry and jails her. When Tom and his father come to see her, she tells Tom that T.R. must have framed her, but Tom’s father is much more persuasive and Tom breaks up with Eadie.

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Tom’s rival, the married Charlie Turner, bails Eadie out. For revenge, she sneaks into T.R.’s stateroom on the liner he and Tom are taking to London. She emerges unexpectedly, clad only in lingerie, and embraces a surprised T.R just as photographers take his picture.

Having been disillusioned, Eadie gets drunk and turns to Charlie Turner. However, Kitty keeps them from being alone together as long as she can. Tom arrives just in time, having changed his mind, and puts Eadie in the shower to sober up. T.R. follows. To save his reputation, he has told the press she was innocent of the theft and that she was married to Tom. He is also impressed by her fighting spirit. A quick wedding is arranged on the spot.

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Lionel Barrymore,

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