Penthouse (1933)

“I like the troubles of bootleggers, chorus girls and head waiters. They’re human! They’re alive!”

Penthouse Poster

Synopsis:
After successfully defending a racketeer (Nat Pendleton) against a murder charge, a thrill-seeking lawyer (Warner Baxter) is ostracized by his co-workers and his fiancee (Martha Sleeper), who leaves him for another man (Phillips Holmes). When Holmes breaks up with his mistress (Mae Clarke), Clarke licks her wounds by returning to her former lover, a gangster (C. Henry Gordon) who is more upset about Clarke’s betrayal than he lets on. Soon Baxter becomes an amateur sleuth in a murder mystery, assisted by Clarke’s beautiful roommate (Myrna Loy).

Genres:

Review:
W.S. Van Dyke — perhaps best known for helming The Thin Man and its sequels — helped bring Myrna Loy to stardom in this earlier “take” on the same genre (comedic murder-mystery). Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s Pre-Code script is refreshingly risque: Loy’s character openly accepts (indeed, encourages) an invitation to spend the night in Baxter’s apartment, for instance, and this isn’t viewed as shameful. Baxter, Loy, Pendleton, and Clarke are all in fine form, and it’s refreshing to see such an atypical relationship between a gangster (Pendleton) and a “straight man” (Baxter). This one’s not must-see, but certainly worth a look if you’re a fan of The Thin Man.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Myrna Loy as Gertie Waxted
    Penthouse Loy
  • Warner Baxter as Jackson Durant
    Penthouse PreCode
  • Nat Pendleton as Tony Gazotti
    Penthouse Pendleton
  • Mae Clarke as Mimi
    Penthouse Clarke
  • Enjoyable Pre-Code dialogue and situations
    Penthouse PreCode

Must See?
No, but it’s certainly worthy viewing.

Links:

One Response to “Penthouse (1933)”

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    While I agree that the “atypical relationship” between Pendleton and Baxter is “refreshing” – and I enjoyed a good deal of their dialogue together – I find the script, overall, a little too predictable for my liking. And, at times, a bit forced when an easier touch might have been more effective.

    That said, it’s enjoyable-enough if not terribly surprising in its progression. What *is* surprising is that Loy seems a bit too lethargic in her role. I’m not sure what she’s aiming for in her approach but, for someone in thick with a tough crowd, she sure seems out-of-water. (This would not be true in ‘The Thin Man’ series, where she seems much more at-home.)

    Fave bit: When clearly-hetero Clarke dies, the next day’s newspaper headline reads in very large letters: ‘Gay Night Club Hostess Murdered’. Gee, talk about an undeveloped plot twist! 😉

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