Sunday, July 30, 2017

#2,397. Beauty Parlor (1932)


Directed By: Richard Thorpe

Starring: Barbara Kent, Joyce Compton, John Harron




Trivia: For a time, this film was considered "lost"











The setting is a barber shop, situated on the ground floor of a swanky hotel. An elderly customer, Mr. Burke (Albert Gran), tells Sally (Barbara Kent) the manicurist that she’s looking good. Sally immediately zips up her blouse, covering her cleavage (which Burke was clearly staring at) and says, sarcastically, “Thank you”. The barber then asks a now-nervous Burke if he’d like a hot towel. Better make it a cold one, Burke says. Then, looking at Sally again, he adds “a very cold one”. 

Based on the above scene (which opens the film), it’s obvious that 1932’s Beauty Parlor is going to be yet another bawdy pre-code drama / romance. Too bad it’s not a very good one.

Sally and her best friend / roommate Joan (Joyce Compton) work for the same barber shop. Sally is happy to have the job, even if it means she has to fight off guys like Burke (who proposes marriage every time they meet). Jeffrey Colt (John Harron) is another of Sally’s amorous customers, and even though she kind of fancies him as well, she knows better than to mix business with pleasure. 

As for Joan, she’s tired of being a manicurist. So, when one of her clients, John Fremont (Wheeler Oakman), offers her a higher-paying job, she quickly accepts. Though happy for Joan, Sally and their other roommate Lou (Betty Mack) have their doubts about Mr. Fremont, especially when Joan tells them he’ll be paying her $75 a week just to “hang out” with rich, older men.

Sally’s fears are soon confirmed: Joan’s new job is, indeed, too good to be true, and before long she’s in trouble with the law. Though she desperately wants to help Joan, Sally knows that doing so may require her to cozy up to Mr. Burke in ways she swore she never would.

Story-wise, Beauty Parlor is a little dull; even the later scenes set inside a jailhouse fail to generate excitement. The film’s biggest problem, though, is in the acting department. Most of the performances are mediocre, to say the least, but the movie’s star, Barbara Kent, is downright awful (she often delivers her lines as if she was reading them for the first time). 

With no real tension or drama to speak of, and a lead actress who just doesn’t seem to care, Beauty Parlor is one of the few pre-code films I’ve seen that falls flat on its face.







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