Big Brown Eyes (1936)

[5.5]

Cary Grant and Joan Blondell star as a private eye and a manicurist-turned-journalist who help solve a mystery that began as a jewelry theft ring and escalates to the accidental shooting death of a baby in Central Park. Yeah, Big Brown Eyes may not sound like the usual Cary Grant movie, but beneath some odd plot choices, it’s not too many shades off His Girl Friday.

The film rides a fine line between romantic comedy and crime mystery, and the rough blend might have worked if Grant and Blondell had better chemistry together. Engaging characters can make a muddled plot forgivable, but Grant is just going through the motions here. Blondell musters a few charismatic moments, but Big Brown Eyes is decidedly a very plot-driven movie, with not so much time given to let its characters live, breathe, and win our affection. I didn’t feel the two stars had enough screen time together, and too much time was spent on Walter Pidgeon’s shady politician character and his bad guy cohorts.

Under the guidance of reliable and prolific writer/director Raoul Walsh (Desperate Journey, Gentleman Jim), Big Brown Eyes isn’t a total wash. If you can buy into the fact that a manicurist can become a forensic journalist, then Joan Blondell might tickle your fancy as she buffs nails while simultaneously lifting fingerprints. And why the movie is called Big Brown Eyes, I will never know.

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