This week’s mystery movie was the 1935 Warner Bros. film “The Girl From 10th Avenue,” with Bette Davis, Ian Hunter, Colin Clive, Alison Skipworth, John Eldridge, Phillip Reed, Katharine Alexander, Helen Jerome Eddy, Gordon (Bill) Elliott, Edward McWade, Adrian Rosley and Andre Cheron.
Adaptation screenplay by Charles Kenyon from a play by Hubert Henry Davies. Edited by Owen Marks, art direction by John Hughes, photography by James Van Trees, gowns by Orry-Kelly, musical direction by Leo F. Forbstein.
Directed by Alfred E. Green.
“The Girl From 10th Avenue” is available on DVD from Warner Archive.
I picked “The Girl From 10th Avenue” during a search in the trades for popular movies released in 1935. You could call it a Cinderella story if Prince Charming were drunk all the time and mooning over some lost love. Bette Davis as lowly seamstress Miriam Brady and Alison Skipworth as a former Florodora girl who schools Miriam in the ways of high society are the best part of the film.
The movie deals with society lawyer Geoffrey Sherwood (Ian Hunter) going on a long bender after being dumped by Valentine (Katherine Alexander) and marrying Mr. Marland (Colin Clive), who is so fabulously wealthy that he doesn’t need a first name. Miriam decides to rescue Geoffrey from his long drunk and after marrying during a bout of alcoholic amnesia, they make an attempt at marriage. Geoffrey finds a new business interest that keeps him sober and Miriam plunges into self-improvement by reading at the public library.
Valentine, meanwhile, has thrown aside Mr. Marland and is directing her feminine wiles at her old flame, Geoffrey. Mr. Marland buttonholes Miriam at a swank art gallery and shows her an item in a society column implying that Valentine and Geoffrey had an illicit rendezvous during golf (on a municipal course – the horror!). The rest of the movie writes itself, but as long as we have Davis’ big scenes, we don’t mind.
With the male characters strictly two-dimensional and Ian Hunter turning in such a wooden performance that it’s a miracle the cast didn’t get splinters, this is Davis’ film all the way. She and Skipworth are enough – with a brief running time of just over an hour – to keep the plot moving. Otherwise it’s wealthy men, handsomely dressed and heading to the club, though Clive’s drunken singing at the bar is memorable, if you can imagine Dr. Frankenstein warbling while under the influence.
Warner Bros. released “The Girl From 10th Avenue” in substitution for an unidentified Leslie Howard production.
Motion Picture Daily (May 15, 1935) said:
Presented with all the necessary ingredients for good entertainment, director Alfred E. Green made the most of his opportunity here and has turned out a stirring, a gripping and a finished product.
Undoubtedly, the film’s entertainment values are greatly enhanced by the character portrayals of the cast, particularly on the part of Bette Davis and Ian Hunter.
The yarn, handled with a delicate touch, has as its base the familiar theme of the girl of the lower stratum of society who marries far above her station to suffer before obtaining final marital bliss.
…. Women everywhere should go for this picture and its appeal should be almost as great to men. Exhibitors should have no trouble with this one.
Harrison’s Reports (June 1, 1935) said:
Just a program entertainment. The plot is so familiar, and the solution so obvious, that it becomes boresome. It is only because of the sympathy that one feels for Bette Davis that the attention is held at all. Ian Hunter, her husband, is selfish and one feels antagonism towards him. An amusing and somewhat dramatic situation is that in which Miss Davis confronts her society rival in the dining room of a fashionable hotel and berates her for attempting to steal her husband. Aside from Miss Davis, no one else does anything to awaken sympathy.
….Not suitable for children, adolescents or Sundays because of some suggestive situations. Harmless for adults.
Writing in the New York Times (May 25, 1935) Andre Sennwald said:
By energetically skirting the cliches of writing which are implicit in its theme, “The Girl From Tenth Avenue” is able to lift itself by its bootstraps into a semblance of intelligent social comedy. At heart it is still in the Clara Bow stream of literature: the tenement girl who clashes with the ladies of the swanky set and beats them at their own game. If you are sufficiently callous to predict that the society snob will clinch his fists and mutter “I’ve been a blind fool,” and that he will discover his great love for the slum girl before the fadeout, it is the reluctant duty of this department to admit that you are entitled to pick up the marbles. But it happens that the film is credibly played by Bette Davis and Ian Hunter, and a good deal of the writing is fresh enough to make “The Girl From Tenth Avenue” seem modestly stimulating instead of just old potatoes.
And yes, Andre Sennwald is reaching back to the early days of New York Times movie critics.
For Monday, we have a mystery gentleman. His companion has been cropped out due to insufficient mysteriousness and will appear Friday.
For Friday, I have uncropped the photo to reveal our unmysterious leading lady.
Update: This is Adrian Rosley and Bette Davis.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery woman. For a change, she approves of such goings-on.
This is Helen Jerome Eddy.
These mystery fellows, however, do not approve of such goings-on. And they intend to do something about it.
Update: This is James Donlan, left, and Davison Clark.
Our final mystery guest for Tuesday is perplexed by such goings-on. A future mystery guest is exiting to the left and will appear for “Aha Thursday” (OK, I moved her to “Hm Wednesday”). In the scene that just concluded, she heartily approved of such goings-on, in case you are keeping track.
Update: This is Jack Hatfield.
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have this mystery woman speaking on the phone.
Update: This is Mary Treen.
We also have this mystery gent, also speaking on the phone.
This is Gordon (Bill) Elliott.
And finally, we have this mysterious mystery woman peering out her door. I could do a full frame of her, but you must admit this image has more mystery.
Update: This is Alison Skipworth.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery waiter, Tuesday’s mystery woman, mystery detectives and mystery reporter), David Inman (Tuesday’s mystery detective No. 1) and Mike Hawks (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery woman and mystery detectives).
For “Aha Thursday,” we have these two mystery gents.
Update: This is John Eldridge, left, and Phillip Reed.
We also have this mystery gent.
Update: This is Colin Clive.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery guests), David Inman (Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 1), Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery guests), Suzanne
Stone (Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 1), Mary Mallory (Tuesday’s mystery detective No. 1, Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 1), Sylvia E. (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery detectives, Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 1), Sheila (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery woman and Wednesday’s mystery women) and Tucson Barbara (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery woman and mystery detectives and Wednesday’s mystery women).
For Friday, we have this fashionable mystery woman.
Update: This is Katherine Alexander.
We also have this rather astonished mystery gent (the leading lady has just walked out on him).
Update: This is Ian Hunter.
And here’s our mystery leading lady.
Update: This is Bette Davis.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Tucson Barbara (Thursday’s mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast), David Inman (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery gent no. 3), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery guests), B.J. Merholz (Thursday’s mystery gent No. 2), Anne Papineau (Thursday’s mystery gent No. 3), Blackwing Jenny (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery women, Thursday’s mystery gent No. 3), Sue Slutzky (mystery movie and all mystery guests) and Sylvia E. (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery woman and mystery reporter, Wednesday’s peeping woman and Thursday’s mystery guests).