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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Frisco Jenny (1932)

Ruth Chatterton had a great success with the 1929 film version of MADAME X including a best actress Oscar nomination as a mother forcibly parted with her infant son, falling into a life of disrepute and eventually put on trial as a murderess defended by her adult son who doesn't know it's his mother he's defending. This William Wellman directed vehicle (pre-code so it's allowed to be racier than usual) follows the same path except the adult son is prosecuting her, not defending her. They even toss in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to add some thrills to the mother melodrama. The quake is actually quite well done, the equal of the more famous earthquake sequence in W.S. Van Dyke's SAN FRANCISCO which came four years later. As for the film itself, Chatterton is fine though too mature for the early portions of the film when she's supposed to be a young girl. The film is entertaining though its mother love sentiment borders on treacle and as good as she is, Chatterton just isn't good enough to overcome that. With Louis Calhern, Donald Cook and Helen Jerome Eddy.

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