This week’s mystery movie has been the 1932 First National Pictures film “Frisco Jenny,” directed by William A. Wellman, from a screenplay by Wilson Mizner and Robert Lord, based on a story by Gerald Beaumont, Lillie Hayward and John Francis Larkin. It was photographed by Sid Hickox with period gowns by Orry-Kelly.
It featured Ruth Chatterton, Louis Calhern, Helen Jerome Eddy, Donald Cook, James Murray, Hallam Cooley, Pat O’Malley, Harold Huber, Robert Emmett O’Connor and Willard Robertson.
Jan. 4, 1933, “Frisco Jenny” is opening in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Times review by Muriel Babcock (a byline I don’t recall) describes “Frisco Jenny” as “a tear-jerker of the first water, the kind that brings handkerchiefs to the fore in profusion.” She added that the movie “is good melodrama, good box office and good fun — if you like to weep. It is not a great picture — it is much too lurid for such designation.”
She said: “….It gives Ruth Chatterton an opportunity to emote such as she hasn’t had since she painted in strong emotional hues the mother character of ‘Madame X,’ since she enacted ‘Sarah and Son.’ And it shows that the able Ruth Chatterton of drawing room comedies is probably at her best when she is yanking heart strings.”
The New York Times (Jan. 7, 1933) review by Mordaunt Hall was unenthusiastic: “It is a narrative of an unfortunate unwed mother which is reminiscent of ‘Madame X.’ Miss Chatterton does splendidly by her role, but even her acting does not compensate for the unedifying incidents, which make bootlegging seem like a wholesome adventure.”
According to the New York Times (Dec. 4, 1932), Chatterton unsuccessfully fought with Warner Bros. to have a voice in selecting scripts, but the studio delivered an ultimatum that no star had a right to “dictate on vehicles.” “Her displeasure is said to have been acute,” the New York Times said. As for “Frisco Jenny,” Chatterton “opposed the selection with vigor, but the ultimatum had been delivered and there was little she could do.”
The New York Times said that although Chatterton’s films were profitable, Warners felt she was being paid too much.
According to her obituary in the New York Times (Nov. 25, 1961), Chatterton left Hollywood after appearing in “Dodsworth” (1936), made several pictures in England and returned to the stage. She was the author of several best-selling novels, including “Homeward Borne,” “The Betrayers,” “The Pride of the Peacock” and “The Southern Wild.”
At the time “Frisco Jenny” was made, Chatterton was married to George Brent, whom she divorced in 1934. She died Nov. 24, 1961, at the age of 67.
“Frisco Jenny” was released on DVD in 2009 as part of TCM’s “Forbidden Hollywood Collection: Volume Three,” but apparently is no longer available from TCM. The collection is listed on Amazon for about $140.
For Monday, we have a mystery gent.
Update: This is James Murray.
For Tuesday, we have another mystery gent.
Update: IMDB indicates this is Clarence Muse, but I have my doubts. Any thoughts?
Brain Trust roll call: Bob Hansen (Monday’s mystery gent), Mike Hawks (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery gent), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery gent) and Mary Mallory (Monday’s mystery gent).
And for Wednesday, we have still another mystery gent.
Update: This is Frank McGlynn Sr.
Brain Trust roll call: Sheila (Monday’s mystery gent) and Howard Mandelbaum (Tuesday’s mystery fellow).
Why it’s a vintage phone.
Update: This is possibly Franklin Parker.
And another one.
Update: This is a cameo by director William Wellman.
Times were so tough that the newsboys couldn’t even afford newsboy caps!
This lad is unidentified.
And for Thursday, we have a mystery gent.
Update: This is Louis Calhern.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery preacher), Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery preacher), Sheila (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery preacher), Jenny M (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery gent) and Dan Nather (mystery movie, Monday’s and Wednesday’s mystery gents).
For Friday, a bonus mystery woman.
Update: This is Helen Jerome Eddy.
And our pre-code leading lady. Get out your hankies!
Update: This is Ruth Chatterton, about to go to the gallows with a fresh manicure.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests, mystery phone caller and mystery director cameo), Mike Hawks (mystery director cameo and Thursday’s mystery guest), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guest), Jenny M (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery guest), Anne Papineau (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guest), Dan Nather (Thursday’s mystery guest), Sarah (Thursday’s mystery guest), David Inman (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guest), Bob Hansen (Thursday’s mystery guest), LC (mystery movie and mystery guests) and Lee Ann, Megan and Thom (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guest).