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The Strawberry Blonde (1941)

“Warner Night at the Movies” has been a highlight of many of the Warner Bros. special edition Home Video releases. This unique presentation by Warner Bros. Discovery’s Library Historian George Feltenstein will recreate the typical moviegoing experience from Hollywood’s golden age, complete with cartoons, short subjects, and trailers from the era, followed by the studio’s new restoration of our feature presentation.  

When Ann Sheridan got into a salary dispute with Warner Bros., the studio borrowed Rita Hayworth from Columbia for this romantic comedy. It was early in Hayworth’s career, and its success paved the way for her ascent as one of the great sex symbols of the 1940s. It helped greatly that she was paired with established stars James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland, with Raoul Walsh’s direction putting the emphasis on comedy and period detail.

Hayworth is the strawberry blonde of the title, a flirtatious girl courted by both aspiring dentist Cagney and his less-than-scrupulous friend (Jack Carson) at the turn of the century. Carson repeatedly dupes Cagney, eloping with Hayworth after his friend has spent his last dime on her and later pulling him into a business venture so he can make him the fall guy when things go belly up. Meanwhile, Cagney ends up married to Hayworth’s suffragette friend (de Havilland) and nursing a lifetime of grievances against his former pal.

This was the second film adaptation of James Hagan’s hit play, One Sunday Afternoon. The first, filmed in 1933, had starred Gary Cooper in Cagney’s role, with Fay Wray as the small-town beauty. That version had been a box office disappointment, but the Warner Bros. remake was a big hit, with both Cagney and Walsh later identifying it as their favorite film. The director would make a third version, now a musical, in 1948, with Dennis Morgan pining for Janis Paige.

d. Raoul Walsh, 99 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Classics

The Strawberry Blonde restored by Warner Bros. in collaboration with the Film Foundation