Cruises! The romance, the adventure- the convicted murderers who romance you as you die of consumption……sigh. How dreamy!
Lets set the scene:
Hong Kong 1932! A harbor bar full of intrigue and exotic travelers! Dan- our hero, played by the dashing William Powell is a murderer on the lam! Moo Shu Lamb, I suppose.
He spots the beautiful, frail and orchid-like Joan at the bar. She’s played by the lovely Kay Francis.
Kiddies, if you aren’t familiar with her its a shame, because at one point she was the highest paid and most beloved actress in town and the studio boss thought she was getting uppity and overpaid. They worked hard to drag her down. The golden goose had a mild speech impediment and they started hazing her with scripts she couldn’t handle. Perhaps you’ve seen the classic ‘She sells seashells by the seashore- a tale of society woe’? Or perhaps the rarely viewed ‘Vestal vessels Ethel and Esther’ two classics written specifically for her that about put poor Kay over the edge! But I digress kittens. Back to Joan.
Her friends are joining her in this quaint oasis for a ‘Bon Voyage Lunger!’ drink before she drags her semi-corpse on a cruise. They meet by bumping into each other. I blame her lack of peripheral in that Sister Batrill headpiece. Let’s focus on this ensemble, can we? It’s just a slice of long-waisted heaven.
I’m hoping to go on a cruise myself. As soon as I gather the appropriate 75 outfits.
I thoroughly appreciate the buttons giving her crotch face some ghoulish eyes. Reminds me of Jack Skellington’s dog.
Menacing crotch be damned- Dan is smitten! They share a beverage.
Historical note: Hong Kong bars did not offer straws. Hmmm…..maybe that’s how she got her awful unnamed disease. Stay safe children, Bring your own sippy cup when travelling. They begin this adorable tradition of breaking the glasses after they skull their pink squirrels. I’m sure the bartender finds it precious.
Dan exits the bar and right into the arms of Sergeant Steve Burke! He knows that Dan is a wanted Man and he’s taking him to San Quinten to visit Sparky the barco-lounger! Dan begs him not to let Joan see him in cuffs. Best not to bring out the kink until after he meets her mother, you knows?
Dan makes a daring bid for freedom by leaping into the harbor- hoping the fetid water will burn thru the handcuffs? In true killer with a heart of gold style, he realizes that the sergeant can’t swim and he returns them both to the shore.
If this were a new movie, he’d have gotten consumption and have run off to die with Joan at Coachella but William Powell movies aren’t usually that emo. Sigh.
Oh here’s a coincidence worthy of a movie! Joan is on the same ship! If you avoid cruises because you only fear the Hantavirus, you may be overlooking the amount of dangerous murderers being transported on the average Carnival cruise! Look it up, it’s a fact. Expedia lets you choose your deck, but rarely the type of felon in the next cabin. That’s a gold star perk.
Joan is so happy- as only the people who have found love and reached their ideal body weight due to a nameless film disease. Remember in Hollywood: pelt= CASH!! Meow!
This cruise is a month long! Literally, we are seeing the slow boat from China. Dan pretty much gets the run of the boat- Jack Dawson style. He wins at bingo, gets his hair braided, makes liberal use of the buffet and runs into old felon friends. Sleeve porn!
Skippy and Barrelhouse Betty are travelling cons on their way to San Fran. They promise not to tell Joan that Dan is not really a travelling salesman, but a murderer- nice, right? That’s what friends are for.
Dan and Joan canoodle and talk about every little thing- well, every little thing except her persistent cough, bleeding gums, and hair loss. No mention of his need to kill periodically either, me thinks- but love is grand. So are her hats.
They go on exotic shore excursions! Well, actually Dan was trying to arrange an escape, but Joan insisted that he take her on a non-refundable package tour to a parrot habitat. The romantic hijinks were cut short by the constant beeping of his ankle monitor and her bouts of painful blindness.
Meanwhile, Steve the copper is falling under the genteel sway of Betty!
Betty is claiming to be a countess. Countess du Barrelhaus to be exact. Swindling her way to San Fran as it were. Skippy is mostly drinking and contemplating his purposelessness in a nihilistic way. Gaw, 30’s movies can be so cliché.
Back to Steve. He’s so smitten! Aline MacMahan must have been totally loving this role. Usually she’s the nurse or the sassy secretary- not a lot of chance to glam up.
He is not totally believing of her fine European heritage tho. Could be how well she outspat him on the promenade deck. She wants to tell him- and he wants to propose! Just as he pops the question, a telegram arrives telling him to lock the bee-otch up! He flings his job and telegram to the wind and makes Betty and her barrel his own!
Oh no! The long walks and sight-seeing have laid Joan low! With her low immunity, she probably has added beak weevils to her list of things to brag about at the next pinochle tourney! Poor Dan was going to tell her that he has a date with Sparky the easy chair! He rushes back to the boat- cradling her in his manly and felonious arms!
The doctor spills the beans to Dan- she’s on the last minutes of her cell plan and won’t be getting her contract renewed! He dashes off a note to her- if she can get there, in one month he’ll meet her in Mexico. Sigh. It’s like my favorite movie couple- Andy and Red!
She wakes from her coma and finds the note and the doctor trying on her cruisewear- she runs to find him- but it’s too late! She collapses in a crepe and charmeuse puddle. Flash forward…..a bar in Acapulco. A crowded bar. Lonely Skippy stares forlornly.
What of our lovers? Did she get that full body transplant? Did he get clemency? Did anyone ever pay the doctor? Over the din of wastrel alcoholism, we hear the sound of broken glasses and symbolism……..
photo credits: little me, google images