Movie Critique - Big City Blues

For review of all movies starring Humphrey Bogart, go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A short seventy two hours in the life of small town Indiana man opens to a lot of possibilities in viewers' eyes. 

Big City Blues is a 1932 American pre-Code drama film starring Joan Blondell, Eric Linden, Jobyna Howland and Ned Sparks among other cast. It is directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Lillie Hayward. Based on the play New York Town by Ward Morehouse; Screenplay provided by Ward Morehouse and Lillie Hayward.

Bud Reeves (portrayed by Eric Linden) gets into some inheritance and decides to take his chance in New York with that money, away from his small town in Indiana. There he meets his Cousin "Gibby" Gibboney (portrayed by Walter Catlett) and through him meets chorus girl Vida Fleet (portrayed by Joan Blondell) and falls in love. All seems to go well until an unexpected wild party at his home causes a murder and chaos erupts.

Eric Linden's Bud comes as naïve as anyone could come; fascinated by big city lights and pretty pretty girls. He reminded me so much of myself when I first stepped onto Grand Central station a good 10 years ago. There is something about New Yok City that draws you I guess.

Joan Blondell's Vida is sweet and practical; at the same time has a heart filled with dreams of romance. The chemistry between Bug and Vida is sweet and soft making you dreamy all over. 

But the cherry on the cake goes to Walter Catlett's Cousin Gibby. Oh he is slick and smart; fast talking and subtly conniving to steal Bud's fortune. You like him, hate him and get angry at him. But no matter what he does you don’t like killing him because you have such good time with him even though it is at your expense. 

Watch out for uncredited appearances by some of the famous personalities. See Humphrey Bogart as Shep Adkins. This is Bogart's first film with Warner Brothers before he goes on to sign a contract with them four years later, and on his way to become a famous star.

Hear Dick Powell's voice as the radio announcer. Listen to the melodious tunes by Clarence Muse who sings two sons - "Every Day Can Be a Sunday", "Whistle and Blow Your Blues Away" - at 55 Club in New York City.

The opening credits are shown on a montage of New York City. Primary cast members are shown with their physical presence on film and their names as well as the names of their roles overlaid on them. Some of the scenes seemed abrupt like somewhere along the line the film lost a few scenes and the restoration could not bring them back. 

At the time the film was made, Empire State Building and George Washington Bridge were pretty new, an the cast get excited to plan to go see them.

A short seventy two hours in the life of small town Indiana man opens to a lot of possibilities in viewers' eyes. A fantastic drama film that has everything in it just like how one gets to see all in New York City - mystery, murder, romance, fun, adventure and juicy lines. What more you want in a film that entertains you at every reel. Huh!

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Interestingly the play New York Town was copyrighted 1932 but had no known performances.

b. The book the girl at the party is reading is a 1928 lesbian novel The Wall of Loneliness by Radclyffe.

c. One of the patrons at New York bar in the cellar, orders a New Orleans Fizz and I wondered what it was. I found a recipe that looked like a simple gin cocktail.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Bogart's hands change from being clasped behind with a newspaper to being on the side between long and close-up shots when he is being introduced.

b. Bogart's stunt double is clearly revealed by his different tie - Bogart wears a solid tie while the double wears a printed one.

c. After the fight you can see the handkerchief half out of Bogart's pocket; but the camera comes back to him a short while later, it is all neatly tucked in.

d. When the scene at 55 Club is shown from a long shot, we can see the three girls already discussing about the murder lookin at a paper; and people around them are looking over their shoulders. However when the scene is in close-up mode, the middle girl seems to join them at that instant; and the people around them float away.


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