Platinum Blonde (1931)


Robert Williams stars as a scrappy newspaper reporter who falls in love with a socialite (rising star Jean Harlow) who drags him kicking and screaming into hoity-toity upper-class society. But after numerous dinners and parties, awkward relationships with ‘the help,’ and one too many comparisons to a bird in a gilded cage, Williams begins to wonder if his marriage is worth the upheaval in lifestyle — especially when he begins to realize his best friend and fellow news reporter (Loretta Young) is a woman after all.

Platinum Blonde is an ill-fitting title to the movie, surely imposed to cash in on Jean Harlow’s mounting fame. Harlow is very much a supporting player here, and not even a very endearing one. I never bought for a moment that Williams’ character would ever fall for Harlow’s snobby, manipulative one. And there’s also never a doubt that he’ll eventually fall for the obvious, long-suffering Young.

As shaky and predictable as the script starts, Williams manages to win over the audience with his confident, sardonic style of humor. The film’s most memorable scenes are the ones in which Williams tries to fit in at Harlow’s cavernous mansion, playing hop-scotch on the marble floor patterns, mocking his stuffy mother-in-law (Louise Closser Hale), or trying to explain to his new personal valet that he doesn’t need help putting on his pants. He also breathes spontaneity into a couple of flirting scenes with Harlow. Williams was poised for potential stardom with this performance, but he tragically died of a burst appendix just four days after the release.

Halliwell Hobbes and Claud Allister are memorable as the butler and valet. Vaudeville actor Walter Catlett is also fun as a rival reporter for another paper. Directed by Frank Capra.