Released July 30, 1932 - featuring Joan Blondell and George Brent
"I'm tired and I'm bored. I think I'll donate my pink and white body* to science and commit suicide," says snarky and frustrated Nurse Blondell after pulling a long shift at the hospital where she is laboring relentlessly. Instead of suicide, she is suddenly reassigned to a nursing job for the local police.
George Brent is on hand (as Police Inspector Patten) and lets Blondell's character know that "you're really working for police headquarters." He starts calling her 'Miss Pinkerton' as she begins finding suspicious clues at the enormous old house where she cares for an elderly lady, surrounded in the home by sinister servants and greedy family, plus the untrustworthy care of a conniving family doctor (C. Henry Gordon) who has a lecherous eye.
The murder of a young man of the family in the home conveniently provided a large payout from a life insurance policy that was made just before the youth became dead, and Blondell begins trying to sort out the criss-crossing motivations around her, plus the many secrets everyone is guarding in obvious over-acted ways, while policeman Brent pops in and out.
Some actors deliver their dialogue without emotion as if they're reading their lines off cards, sometimes with small pauses interrupting the words in a sentence. Whether this is from under-rehearsal or just the problem of early "talkie" films struggling to work out how to handle recorded dialogue, I don't know. Even Blondell is ill-used at times, empolying a lot of mugging for the camera, with Blondell being called upon to add facial expression punctuation to weak on screen gags.
Miss Pinkerton suffers from its "old haunted house" story line, and the clumsy acting further down in the cast list is another negative. Director Bacon does use some inventive camera angles, though it can be for purposes that add nothing to the story, such as shooting up at characters from between their legs, as if the audience is a nodding baby, making me think this inventiveness is arbitrary and not related to storytelling goals at all. Maybe much of the 1932 audience was nodding.
As an artifact of a mostly bygone mystery story category, (old haunted house mysteries, revived recently with Knives Out, a rare update to an otherwise dead genre), Miss Pinkerton excels, containing all the detritus: greedy and secretive relatives, corrupt professionals with compromised loyalties, servants with their own agenda, a dying family leader, and of course the most important character in these kind of stories, a large house full of dangerous or unknown rooms.
Miss Pinkerton just isn't quite able to put all its pieces together to best effect, though Blondell and Brent are energetic, and like other films featuring these actors (together or apart), its why we can enjoy what there is that works in this film.
* A reference to Joan Blondell's 'pink and white' body is also made in her 1933 film Havana Widows.
From former screen legends who have faded into obscurity to new revelations about the biggest movie stars, Valderrama unearths the most fascinating little-known tales from the birth of Hollywood through its Golden Age.
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Original Page July 22, 2010 | Updated March 2021