When a couple of burlesque performers (Blondell, Farrell) are suspended for refusing to *ahem* dance at a private party, they both conclude a major career change is in order. Here, fate rears its hair-brained head when they run into a former chorus girl who found herself a rich sugar daddy, made a killing in the divorce settlement, and is now living the high life. And so, our gal pals hit on a plan to head to Cuba, where this kind of gold-digging marital turnaround has become a cottage industry and set their sites on a rich fish (Kibbee), hire a seemingly permanently intoxicated lawyer (McHugh) to help grease the scam, and stay one step ahead of the dope (Jenkins) whom they duped into financing the trip. Mayhem ensues...
(M'rowr. Gawd I love pre-codes.)
As much as I love Glenda Farrell, I love her even more when she's teamed up with real life gal-pal, Joan Blondell. You want rapid-fire dialogue? Howard Hawks would be eating his own damned heart out at after witnessing the (acid) tongue-tying tête-à-têtes these two got into once they've warmed up. Havana Widows was the first time Warner Bros. teamed this duo and it was only supposed to be a one off, but these blonde-bombshells proved so popular the studio quickly had them paired-up again for about five more films to mine the same, gold-digging vein. (Which is extremely rare for Jack Warner, who liked to spread his stars around to make him more money.) And though Havana Widows isn't the best of the bunch (-- for the ones I've seen, that nod goes to Miss Pacific Fleet), it still has its moments as it tries to find the temperature.
"With Glenda, Warners first paired us in Havana Widows (1933) and we clicked. She’d ask me, “Who’s Laurel? Who’s Hardy?” We’re both in the Pat O’Brien vehicle I’ve Got Your Number (1934) but I don’t think we have scenes together. So we still were not considered a team. But Havana Widows was such a hit we did Merry Wives of Reno (1934)* and Kansas City Princess (1934) and Miss Pacific Fleet (1935). Oh, I forgot Traveling Saleslady (1935), We’re In The Money (1935) . We were in Gold Diggers of 1937 together but not really as a team. The only other female comedy team was Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd, but they only made shorts. I’d go home at night with my sides aching because she was that funny. I recently saw her in a Torchy Blane movie on TV and she was the whole show. Like most of us, she got rotten treatment from Warners. But she did rebound on live TV and we stayed close until her passing last year (1971). I cried buckets I can tell you."
-- Joan Blondellxxxxxx
* As far as I know, Blondell wasn't in Merry Wives of Reno.
One of the things I am most thankful for from 2012 is getting a crash course on the life and times and film career of Glenda Farrell. And the more I dig, the more I love. And so, to share that love, we're kicking off The Glenda Farrell Project for 2013 and beyond, as I will do everything in my power to share my Glenda love in the usual, obsessive compulsive fashion in all matters and means and ways. Stay tuned! Lots more to come.
Havana Widows (1933) First National Pictures :: Warner Bros. / P: Robert Lord / D: Ray Enright / W: Earl Baldwin / C: George Barnes / M: Leo F. Forbstein / S: Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell, Guy Kibbee, Allen Jenkins, Lyle Talbot, Frank McHugh, Ruth Donnelly