Blood Money (1933)

“Every dollar you ever made was right from somebody’s heart — you’re nothing but a bloodsucker.”

Synopsis:
Corrupt bondsman Bill Bailey (George Bancroft) falls for a thrill-seeking young socialite (Frances Dee), who nearly causes his downfall.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
This above-average underworld thriller from the early 1930s defies easy categorization. As Peary points out, director Rowland Brown doesn’t pass judgment on those participating in organized crime (which he considered to be a “legitimate” business during the Depression); in this film’s universe, the only crime of which “one should be ashamed” is a double-cross. The characters flout convention as well: a shady, ordinary-looking bondsman is the sympathetic protagonist of the film, while Frances Dee’s wealthy kleptomaniac thrill-seeker is, as Peary puts it, “a woman years ahead of her time”. At only 65 minutes long, Blood Money moves quickly, with several exciting plot twists, some unusual settings (including a dog race), well-written dialogue, and nuanced characters. Well worth a look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Judith Anderson, wonderful in her first screen role
    Judith Anderson
  • Frances Dee as the spoiled, thrill-seeking young socialite
    Frances Dee
  • An exciting climax
    Climax
  • Smart dialogue

Must See?
Yes, simply to watch one of the few films directed by the notorious Rowland Brown. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies 2 (1983).

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One Response to “Blood Money (1933)”

  1. First viewing. Oh, yes, a must – and among the best of the pre-Code films.

    The assessment here pretty much says it all. This is one wacky flick that seems to fly by. For me, the icing on this ‘crumb cake’ is the dialogue.

    Bancroft and Anderson get their share of gems:

    Bancroft: Why, if you were dying and needed blood for a transfusion, I’d be the first to give it.
    Anderson: So the only way we can get together is to have a blood transfusion, hm?

    Bancroft: You’ve outgrown me, Ruby. You know, people do outgrow each other – just like they do clothes.
    Anderson: That’s true, Bill. (handing him his…) And it usually begins with the hat.

    But the best are saved for Dee’s good-girl-career-bending performance as a socialite with (ahem) “a little too much imagination”. She observes Hawaiian dancing (“Pagan. Almost savage, isn’t it?”), describes her dream man (“What I need is someone to give me a good thrashing. I’d follow him around like a dog on a leash.”), and makes use of a very original pick-up line (“How does it feel to rob a bank?”). In a daring-for-its-time kiss-clinch, Dee is hardly shocked when she says, “You bit my lip.” (Her lover’s response is a cool “Did I?”)

    Dee’s final scene – and how she plays it – is so sick it’s funny. (I love a story told by her biographer: a friend admonished her for playing a prostitute; she replied, “I played a masochistic, nymphomaniacal kleptomaniac, not a prostitute.”)

    ‘BM’ has a doozy of a plot twist at the end. (And this doesn’t give it away; my one complaint about the picture is that the use of a bomb here is a bit feeble.)

    [Sidebit for gay ffs: Somewhat early on, Bancroft sits at a bar, next to a good-looking woman dressed in a tux, wearing a monocle, acting a bit butch. He offers her a cigar, she takes a good whiff of it and remarks, “You big sissy.” He walks away howling up a staircase. BTW: We’re told later she’s not a lesbian. …OK.]

    The Fox Movie Channel does show ‘BM’ from time to time – but, boy, do they need to clean up that print!

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