Last night I attended a screening at the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood of a 1932 pre-code William Powell/Kay Francis movie that I’d never heard of, the somewhat generically named ‘Jewel Robbery’. What an unexpected delight this perfectly preserved antique was. Smart, surprising, filled with the usual saucy pre-code stuff (drug-laced cigarettes are a major plot point and Kay Francis looks lovely in a number of different bath towels), the film was directed with unusual vigor by William Dieterle, a director largely known for making prestige 1930s Awards films (‘The Life Of Emile Zola’, ‘The Story Of Louis Pasteur’, ‘Juarez’) most of which I’ve never quite found the courage to attempt to watch. The sets–elaborately deco’d and impeccably furnished–and costumes (same) are of course a delight as they would be in almost any pre-Code set in a similar high-class mittel-Europa milieu. But it’s the acting–effervescent, stylized and wonderfully brittle–that gives the film an unusual confidence, a pacy certain-of-itself playfulness that still struts across the screen ninety years after it was photographed. Above is the trailer for the film. I don’t see the full film on Youtube but a number of 2-3 minute chunks are parked there. The entire film runs barely 70 minutes and each minute is packed with incident, character development, revelation, surprise and humor. What a pleasure to see a movie that you actually wish was longer…


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