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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Platinum Blonde (1931)

Mrs. Schuyler: Stop calling me Mother!
Stew: All right, Grandma.

- Louise Closser Hale, Robert Williams

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 30, 2003

Stars: Jean Harlow, Loretta Young, Robert Williams
Other Stars: Louise Closser Hale, Halliwell Hobbes, Reginald Owen, Edmund Breese, Walter Catlett
Director: Frank Capra

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild comic violence)
Run Time: 01h:28m:45s
Release Date: November 04, 2003
UPC: 043396037595
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B-D+ D

DVD Review

Jean Harlow was one of the first great blonde sex symbols, and her status is the ostensible topic of this Frank Capra classic from early in the sound era. Harlow had erupted onto the screen the year before in Hell's Angels, and was at the height of her stardom. But even though she is ostensibly the main attraction here, it's Capra sentiment all the way in this class comedy.

Reporter Stewart 'Stew' Smith (Robert Williams) is covering the blackmail attempts of a Follies girl against the Schuyler family, but when he meets daughter Anne Schuyler (Harlow), he falls hard. His charm and fast-talking enthusiasm wins Anne over, and the two are married, much to the disapproval of the Schuylers and the merriment of Stew's fellow reporters. The balance of the picture takes a comic look at the tension between Stew's low-class origins and the hoity-toity of the rich.

The dialogue is fast and smart, with a ton of zesty early 1930s slang to boot. Unlike many early talkies, the chatter is brisk and not dull in the least; the talkie medium is used to great effect here in ways that clearly influenced such later pictures as My Man Godfrey. The script owes much of its cohesiveness to series of running gags, centering on the name Smith, double-strength bicarbonates, birds in gilded cages, and garters for socks, but instead of running out of steam, each gag becomes funnier as the film rolls along.

Most early talking pictures featured very static shots, but Capra includes a frankly astonishing (for the period) lengthy tracking shot that follows Williams and Harlow through the Schuyler mansion. More distracting is the near-complete absence of background scoring, as was still the custom at the time, though there is some moderate use of onscreen source music. The exception is a lighthearted comic bit as a bored Smith plays hopscotch on the mansion's elaborate parquet floors.

Surprisingly, Harlow demonstrates little screen presence here; perhaps that's partly due to the cold character she's playing. Supporting actress Loretta Young (as Gallagher, another reporter) steals every scene that she's in, with her glowing eyes and charming allure. Robert Williams makes an appealing leading man, making his death from appendicitis in the year of this film's release a real loss to the genre. The lesser members of the cast are all enjoyable as well, most notably Halliwell Hobbes as the drily comic butler Smythe, Reginald Owen as the Schuyler family attorney, and Walter Catlett as a broadly funny competing reporter.

Above all, however, this is a comedy about class. In the height of the depression, Capra understood that movie-going audiences for the most part both wanted to see how the "other half" lives, and to give the rich a swift kick in the pants at the same time. The picture spends a lot of time displaying the lavish lifestyle of the Schuylers and contrasting it with the simple and straightforward lives of Gallagher and Stew. Although not quite the full-blown populism of Capra's pictures of the late 1930s and 1940s, the essentials are all here.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame picture is transferred well, with nice textures and good details. Whites are luminous and a wide greyscale is apparent, with rich blacks and plenty of shadow detail. The main fault is speckling, which is present throughout but worst at the reel changes where it sometimes becomes a veritable snowstorm. No major tears or damage are apparent, however. The titles are thoughtfully windowboxed.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 English mono shows its age dreadfully. The hiss often overwhelms the dialogue. The music, what there is of it, is frequently tinny and thin. Noise and crackle is often apparent as well. Clearly not much effort was put into cleaning up this track.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese, French with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring His Girl Friday, It Happened One Night
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Other than a couple trailers for other 1930s Columbia comedies, there's nothing for extras. Chaptering is the usual 28 stops used by Columbia, which is plenty for a picture of this length.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Prototypical Capra with a number of pleasing performances (though surprisingly, not by Harlow), with little for extras and without much sprucing up of the audio and video.


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