Review: Housewife (1934, Green)


Housewife

Meet Nan (Ann Dvorak). She’s ‘just a housewife’. She has a precocious turd of a son and a casually sexist husband (played by George Brent) who can’t be bothered with ‘the little things’. But of course we’re not supposed to see the husband as inconsiderate; this is the 30’s after all and open season for sexism reigns supreme. Bill works at an ad agency, but he’s stuck in a rut. Former schoolmate Patricia (Bette Davis) comes to work at the same ad agency, but in a top position; she’s really successful, but of course an independent woman must also be a homewrecker, and so it goes. She used to love Bill, but ran away to fuel her heartbreak into a wildly successful career once she heard Bill and Nan were getting married. So she’s wildly successful, but not truly happy. And did I mention she’s a homewrecker?

Bill gets rich after quitting his job and starting his own agency. The money to make that move came from Nan shopping at bargain basements for five years and happily saving, waiting until the moment Bill was ready to actually help himself. All of his success is thanks to Nan, who has all the ideas. We never deal with this; she’s just periodically referred to as a ‘clever girl’. Her ideas are completely ridiculous but they work. One of them includes getting drunk and stalking someone. OK. Fine. Anyways, with wealth comes the…desire to all of a sudden cheat on his perfect giddily self-sacrificing wife? OK. Sure. Bill starts cheating on Nan with Patricia, right out in the open for everyone including Nan to see. Does Nan do anything about it? No. Nothing. She sucks it up. Bill finally tells her he’s in love with Davis. Her response? “I’ve seen this coming”. No. Really? You’re so smart Nan. Quick as a whip. What does she do? Refuses to give him a divorce. She loves him and knows it’s just a phase.

Then Bill runs over their precocious turd of a son with his car. He’ll live but it’ll take ‘a long time for him to recover’. Now Bill wants to get back together with Nan. She says no, he’s only saying this because the precocious turd got hurt. Flash to a minute long courtroom scene. Nan is asked a question about Bill’s behavior being irrational and morose. Nan defends him. Bill owns up to being awful. They reconcile in a minute flat. The final scene; Bill gets ready for work and Nan is registering to vote in her district. Occupation? ‘Just a housewife’.

This is quite possibly the worst film I’ve seen from the 1930’s. Avoid at all costs. At 69 minutes, this felt about 5 hours long. I almost stopped it several times. It’s offensive on so many levels without any redeeming qualities to balance out the dated normalcy. Oh, and there’s a blackface routine just to keep things extra awful. A most lifeless film with heavy doses of incomprehensible logic even at a basic level. No wonder Bette Davis was bitter with Warner Bros. This is what they put her on after On Human Bondage. George Brent sleepwalks through this and Ann Dvorak tries her best with a joke of a part. The things I do for you Ann. The things I do for you.

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