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VANITY STREET (1932)

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Columbia Pictures was still considered a poverty row studio when Charles Bickford and Helen Chandler went there to star in this pre-Code romance. In the film, Chandler breaks a drug store window so that she can go to jail and get off the streets. Bickford is the police officer called on the case, who sends her to his apartment instead and then gets her a job as a chorus girl. Compared to many other pre-Code films, this one is fairly tame—the leads share an apartment for a while, but it’s clearly platonic. The main source of risqué material is a gigolo (George Meeker) with whom Chandler gets involved when she thinks Bickford isn’t that into her. Meeker’s been sponging off a faded musical star (Mayo Methot) while also romancing a wealthy woman so he can blackmail her with compromising photos. The film’s chief recommendation is the sincere work of its two stars, Hollywood rebels who didn’t hold on to leading player status for long (although Bickford continued acting into his 70s), and Nick Grinde’s direction. Although he spent most of his career in B movies, Grinde knew how to use the camera, and the picture is filled with interesting angles and graceful tracking shots. (d. Nick Grinde, 67m, 35mm)

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