Tuesday, April 15, 2014

God's Gift to Women - A Round up of Reviews

God's Gift to Women, Louise Brooks' third American talkie, was officially released on this day in 1931. The film is a pre-code romantic comedy - or rather a farce - about a Parisian playboy who falls in love with an American girl, but cannot consummate his love for fear of his life. An eminent cardiologist warned his terrified patient, “No excitement and no women. One kiss and you die!”

The film stars Frank Fay (the Parisian playboy), Laura LaPlante (his love interest), and Louise Brooks, Joan Blondell, Margaret Livingston, and Yola d'Avril (feminine distraction to the Parisian playboy). Charles Winninger plays the father of the love interest. This Warner Brothers film, based on the play called The Devil Was Sick by Jane Hinton, was directed by the great Michael Curtiz.

When first completed, God's Gift to Women included a few musical numbers, but due to growing audience distaste for musicals in the United States, all of the songs were cut in American prints of the film. Frank Fay (then Barbara Stanwyck's husband) sang the film's theme song, which is heard over the credits and is underscored several times throughout the story. As well, there is an elaborate dance number featuring the Sisters "G" (Eleanor and Karla Gutchrlein) in the nightclub sequence at the beginning of the film. The complete film was released intact in other countries; today, however, only the American version sans music is thought to have survived. The Warner Archive Collection released God's Gift to Women on DVD in December 2012.

Despite Frank Fay's then enormous popularity, God's Gift to Women never really caught on. Though an A-list production, the film's silliness garnered it the attention and respect of a B-list flick. [A few songs recorded by Frank Fay can be heard on RadioLulu.] In fact, it was sometimes paired with a lowly instructional golf film featuring golfing star Bobby Jones. Here is a round up of magazine and newspaper reviews and articles drawn from the Louise Brooks Society archive.

anonymous. "Amorous Fluff Amusing at Warner Bros." San Francisco Chronicle, April 18, 1931.
--- "The picture is a bit of fluff, but it is amusing and is well produced."

anonymous. "Frank Fay as Don Juan at Warner." San Francisco Examiner, April 19, 1931.
--- "The cast is notable . . . . Joan Blondell, the blonde, and Louise Brooks, the brunette, are prominent among the principals."

anonymous. "Reviews of the New Films." Film Daily, April 19, 1931.
--- capsule review; "Merry French farce with amusing plot and deft comedy work by Frank Fay, fine feminine support and good direction."

Delehanty, Thonton. "The New Film." New York Post, April 21, 1931.
--- "The humor is in the style of the hackneyed French farce, so hackneyed that it is paralyzingly awful."

Mines, Harry. "Bobby Jones Reeler Clicks." Los Angeles Daily Illustrated News, April 25, 1931.
--- "All the girls in the cast have the opportunity to wear beautiful clothes and look their vamnpiest. They are Laura LaPlante, Marguerite Livingston, Yola D'Avril, Louise Brooks, Joan Blondell,, Ethelyn Claire and the Sisters 'G'."

Schallert, Edwin. "First Golfing Picture Clever." Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1931.
--- "Louise Brooks and Yola D'Avril participate zestfully in this conflict."

Starr, Jimmy. "Warner's Hollywood Has F. Fay as Modern Don Juan." Los Angeles Evening Express, April 27, 1931.
--- "Joan Blondell, Louise Brooks and Yola D'Avril are a trio of snappy charmers."

Evans, Harry. "The Movies." Life, May 8, 1931.
--- "These few amusing moments are the film's total assets - unless you haven't seen Louise Brooks, Joan Blondell and Yola D'Avril in their underwear."

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