Big City Blues (1932)

Seventy-two hours in the life of Indiana man Bud who inherits money and heads for New York City where his cousin Gibbony introduces him to chorus girl Vida for whom he falls. When a girl is killed by a drunk at a party in his hotel room, Bud is the chief suspect.

Early Effort by Some Future Stars

15 June 2001 | by chinaskee (United States) – See all my reviews

This comedy/drama from the olden days has quite a bit to recommend it.Young rube from Indiana moves to New York City,loses all his money,falls in love with a chorus girl(Joan Blondell),and attends a wild hotel party where the bathtub gin is flowing freely,all in the space of about 48 hours!Some interesting cinematography and that great 30’s rapid-fire dialogue which seems to be a lost art these days.Joan Blondell has a very funny scene at a speakeasy craps table.Humphrey Bogart,who was still a starving actor himself at the time,appears briefly in an uncredited role,and as in most of his early roles,has that one moment of unleashed anger that served him so well in later years.Lots of fun.

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New York Licked Me Once”

7/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
29 September 2008

Humphrey Bogart’s first appearance in Warner Brothers picture was in a small featured role in Big City Blues which starred Eric Linden and Joan Blondell. It’s the story of a young kid from Hoopersville, Indiana who comes to the New York City to seek fame and fortune and gets a great deal less than he bargained for.

Linden plays our young man fresh off the farm and the first Linden does is look up cousin Walter Catlett who is playing the usual Walter Catlett sharpie. I do love the way Catlett keeps opening his wallet and to his amazement can’t seem to find any money there. He latches on to Linden the way a political ‘consultant’ latches on to a spendthrift candidate.

Of course Linden’s arrival in the Big Apple is cause for a party which means bootleg booze, chorus girls, and some dance music. Catlett takes the liberty and Linden’s money and room to throw a party so Eric can presumably meet some of the ‘important’ people Catlett knows. Among the guests are Joan Blondell and a bevy of her chorus girl friends.

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But things go terribly wrong and one of the girls, Josephine Dunn, winds up dead. When that happens the guests scatter with Catlett the first out the door and Blondell the last, leaving poor Linden holding the bag. Of course Linden panics and spends the next day a fugitive looking for Blondell.

Mervyn LeRoy directs Big City Blues at a sprightly pace and when you’ve got players like Blondell, Bogey, Catlett, and most of all Guy Kibbee playing an oaf of a house detective you know the film will be entertaining. In fact down the cast list you’ve got Herman Bing as a waiter, Lyle Talbot as another party guest, J. Carrol Naish as the supplying bootlegger, and Dennis O’Keefe in a small bit in a crap game and more besides, you’re in for a real treat if you’re like me, a big fan of the days when all these faces ruled films. Dick Powell is heard only as a radio announcer.

Kibbee by the way turns out to be the hero of the film, but you have to see it to see how he accomplishes that. And of course you have to see what happens to naive young Eric Linden.

Some nice blue cracks in this before the Code film pepper Big City Blues throughout the running time. Although one very big screen legend was in the cast, the film is actually a real salute to some of the great character players the movies ever had.

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Terrific pre-Code drama

7/10
Author: John Seal from Oakland CA
8 December 2002

Big City Blues is a marvelous reminder of the vibrancy of American cinema in the early sound days. Directed by the always reliable Mervyn LeRoy, the film features uncredited performances by a wonderful cast, including Humphrey Bogart, Lyle Talbot, Dennis O’Keefe, Dick Powell (hilarious as the voice of a radio ad-man expounding on the virtues of Yum Yum brand popcorn), and Clarence Muse (who delivers some terrific singing in a speakeasy scene), as well as Joan Blondell as the brassy showgirl with a heart of gold, Eric Linden as a smalltown rube, and especially Walter Catlett as Linden’s Cousin Gibby, who’s responsible for most of the trouble that takes place. Written by Lillie Hayward, the script is hilarious, intelligent, and insightful, especially when it pokes fun at the peccadilloes of big city life. Bogart has a particularly juicy line when, reading from a newspaper, he informs partygoers that the police have recently picked up a criminal with “a handgun in one pocket and a lipstick and powderpuff in the other”! The same party sequence also features the sight of a nervous young lady reading from the infamous (and much censored) lesbian novel “The Well of Loneliness” by Radclyffe Hall. In short, this is a fine example of pre-Code filmmaking and should be of interest to all fans of 30s cinema.

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The New York Experience

Author: lugonian from Kissimmee, Florida
5 March 2006

BIG CITY BLUES (Warner Brothers, 1932), directed by Mervyn LeRoy, is a Depression era melodrama without the focus on the unemployed in breadlines or the homeless struggling to survive, but a cliché story about the survival of a country boy who ventures to the big city, the “Big Apple,” better known as New York. Starring Joan Blondell, her role is actually secondary but crucial to the plot, while the Eric Linden, whose name comes below hers, is the central focus.

The story revolves around Buddy Reeves (Eric Linden), a naive country boy from Hoopersville, Indiana. After inheriting $1100, he decides to fulfill his dream by coming to live in the greatest city in the world, New York. Unable to take his dog, Duke, with him, Buddy offers the pooch to a Willow Junction station master (Grant Mitchell), who accepts the animal only as a loan, knowing full well, that he will do exactly what he did as a youth, by venturing to the big city only to return home disillusioned. However, Buddy believes different, especially since he only has a one way ticket. Upon his arrival at Grand Central Station, Buddy, as he carries his suitcases, strolls down with amazement the busy streets surrounded by the “rush, tension and crowds.” He registers at the Hotel Hercules, room 3663, where his Cousin Gibbony (Walter Catlett) enters the scene to teach him the ropes in becoming a true New Yorker as well as fast-talking his way in acquiring some of his money. Gibbony, a comedic con-artist who claims to know the most important people in town, ranging from Mayor Jimmy Walker to actress Constance Bennett, arranges for the young lad to be introduced to a handful of his friends by having an all night party to take place in Buddy’s hotel room. That evening, Buddy becomes infatuated with an attractive show girl named Vida Fleet (Joan Blondell).

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During this very active party, which consists of radio background music to current hit tunes as “My baby Just Cares for Me,” Lem Sully (Lyle Talbot), actor and drunk, along with globetrotter Shep Atkins (Humphrey Bogart) get into an argument over the drunken Jackie DeVoe (Josephine Dunn), a Follies girl. A physical fight ensues, leading to a whiskey bottle being thrown across the room, hitting the head of Jackie, causing her death. Suddenly the room is quiet. All the guests make a hasty departure, especially Vida, leaving Buddy to be faced with a possible murder charge. Breaking away as Hummell, the house detective (Guy Kibbee) enters to discover the body, Buddy hides amongst the crowded city, hoping to avoid being arrested by Quelkin (Thomas Jackson) of the homicide squad, who is hot on his trail.

Others in the cast consist of Inez Courtney as Faun; Ned Sparks as Stackhouse; Jobyna Howland (in her Marjorie Rambeau-type performance) as Mrs. Cartlidge, the 55 Club speakeasy “madame”, along with interesting assortment of notable actors assuming no screen credit, including Josephine Dunn (Al Jolson’s co-star in 1928’s THE SINGING FOOL); J. Carroll Naish as a bootlegger; Herman Bing as a German waiter; Clarence Muse as the black singing waiter vocalizing “Every Day Can Be a Sunday”; and the heard but not seen Dick Powell as the radio announcer advertising Yum Yum Popcorn.

Eric Linden is ideally cast as naive but vulnerable young lad, along with Blondell in her usual street smart, tough but loyal girlfriend performance. They would be reunited once more in race-car drama, THE CROWD ROARS (1932) starring James Cagney. Of the supporting players, it is Walter Catlett sporting glasses, derby and cigar (a cross between comedians Groucho Marx and Robert Woolsey), the scene stealer who livens things up.

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With so much happening during its brisk and brief 65 minutes, BIG CITY BLUES moves as quickly as any speeding cars or pedestrians depicted on screen. Along with other then current New York sounding film titles, MANHATTAN PARADE (1931), CENTRAL PARK (1932), 42nd STREET (1933), just to name a few, no other movie studio like Warners captures the feel and essence of New York City life, and BIG CITY BLUES is no exception. Not as well known as the more famous New York movies of this period, it’s worth catching whenever presented during the late night hours on Turner Classic Movies.(**1/2)

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