Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Mark...

...of lack of quality: Monogram Pictures.

Monogram was the top of the bottom, the elite studio, if such a thing is possible, of Hollywood's low-rent outlets, the studios collectively known as Poverty Row.

The roster was a mix of has-been, ex-stars, youngsters, and obscure attractions; the offerings a jumble of series pictures (has anyone ever actually enjoyed a Bowery Boys film?), low rent comedies, and Westerns; and the ambiance minimalist, rushed, and generally slightly seedy.

It was the studio where, among other things, Kay Francis took her fading career at the end of the War and where she was, briefly and for the last time, Queen of the Lot. Her "Monogram Trilogy" of 1945-46 tried to inject a rush of B/noir energy into the kinds of weepies she'd been making since the mid 30s, without much success.

Allotment Wives is probably the best of the bunch; Kay is a ruthless con-woman with a ring of chippies who steal from GIs. The weepie side (seen here) comes from the subplot, in which she's also a devoted mother coddling a spoiled child (paging Veda Pierce!). She does get a pretty fab death scene.

Wife Wanted strays a little too close to home - Kay is a fading star, dabbling in real estate, who falls into a "lonely hearts" scam.

And even Kay's diehard fans thought that a picture that treated divorce as A Fate Worse Than Death was silly - especially coming from an actress whose unclear number of husbands almost exceed counting on one hand.

It's hard to imagine that Kay Francis didn't know that taking her act over to Monogram was career suicide. Maybe that was what she was after. She shook the dust of LA from her feet and never made another film.

1 comment:

  1. Now I want to see those Kay Francis movies. (BTW : I, for one, LOVED Satch and Mugs).