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 Nurse Blondell after pulling a long shift at the hospital, one of many such shifts without let up. She then suddenly gets reassigned to do a nursing job for the local police, but not before director Lloyd Bacon makes sure we get to watch Blondell undress and put on a negligee, which seems to have been a required visual rite-of-passage for these kind of pre-code films.
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 starts finding clues about what's really going on in the enormous old house where she is assigned to care for an elderly lady. They are surrounded in the home by sinister servants and family, and the apparent murder of a young man of the family who was inexplicably murdered in the home, which has conveniently saved everyone from poverty because of the large life insurance policy he took out just before becoming dead. Blondell tries to sort out the mess and Brent pops in and out.
Blondell and Brent present their particular acting speciality with rough skill, but director Bacon doesn't help matters much as most of the other actors deliver their lines flat and as if they're reading them off cards or just suddenly remembering them, with small pauses interrupting some of the lines. This is either from severe under-rehearsal or just the problem of early "talkie" films struggling to work out how to handle recorded dialogue, though by 1932 most production crews had worked it out. But, alas, not here. Miss Pinkerton suffers from the "old haunted house" story line, and the clumsy acting. Bacon does use a lot of inventive camera angles, though often enough its 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. Maybe much of the 1932 audience was nodding, since Miss Pinkerton just isn't quite able to put all its pieces together properly.
* A reference to Joan Blondell's 'pink and white' body is also made in her 1933 film Havana Widows.
Original Page December 2019