Dance, Fools, Dance

Joan Crawford plays a spoiled rich girl (Bonnie Jordan) forced to take a job as a cub reporter in a 1931 movie called “Dance, Fools, Dance.”  After enjoying the party life on yachts and galavanting around town with abandon, Bonnie’s father suddenly dies after losing a fortune in the market crash.  Now penniless, Bonnie and her brother take different routes to survive.  Bonnie works as reporter hoping to break a big story, but all her editor ever gives her to write about is news such as the annual poultry show at Jackson Park.  Brother Rodney (William Bakewell) gets attracted to bootlegging, and works for nasty mob boss Jake Luva (Clark Gable).

Joan Crawford goes undercover to woo Clark Gable in "Dance, Fools, Dance."

Joan Crawford goes undercover to woo Clark Gable in “Dance, Fools, Dance.”

Thankfully, the movie follows Crawford for the majority of the story, with lots of time spent at the newspaper office where the editors and her fellow reporters treat her with little respect.  As a former high-society girl, I thought she’d infiltrate her social circuit for the latest gossip, but that crowd soon turns their noses up at her.  She describes her former gang as a bunch of people who would “grab your pet belongings a an auction.” Bonnie’s brother Rodney, apparently driven by alcoholism, joins the bootleggers and soon gets in over his head.  Jake wants to sell significant liquor to the “bluebloods,” and decides to go outside the gang and use Rodney to “sell a little redeye.”

Meanwhile, Bonnie’s fellow reporter, a jocular newshound by the name of Bert Scranton (Cliff Edwards), snoops around Jake’s operation for a story.  This leads to tragic consequences and a decision by Bonnie’s editors to send her undercover to work in Jake’s nightclub.  Bonnie gets a job as a featured dancer, which gives us the opportunity to see Joan Crawford’s outstanding talent as a tap dancer.  She only does one routine but it’s a damn good one and Crawford looks terrific.

Crawford and Gable carried on a real life romance, and the chemistry of that relationship is evident in their scenes together.  The acting of Crawford’s early love interest in the film, Lester Vail (Bob), seems quite stiff compared to the performances put on by Crawford and Gable.  They must have felt very comfortable working together.  The film throws satirical jibes at the newspaper business, with a scene showing a row of reporters at their typewriters pounding out stories as if on an assembly line.  But when Bonnie finally gets her chance to break the big story, she proves not only her own mettle but also the investigative power of a big city newspaper.

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