Joan Sweet Joan

Sometimes movies are made to tell a story with real substance and insight. Other times, they’re made just to capitalize on a money-making formula. “There’s Always A Woman” was one of those movies made for greedy reasons. It exists mainly because Columbia Pictures wanted their own version of MGM’s successful “Thin Man” movie series about a husband and wife detective team.

The movie’s cynical origins are disappointing. Fortunately, they didn’t prevent it from being a satisfying experience for me, thanks to smart direction, writing, acting, and casting. I believe this movie’s greatest asset is leading lady Joan Blondell. I’ve loved her work in many supporting roles, but found her more memorable than ever before in “There’s Always A Woman”. She’s a familiar face, yet I felt like I was seeing her for the first time because I’d never seen her play such a substantial role so perfectly. It seems custom made for Blondell to show how lovable she can be and she plays it with joy.

Blondell’s character is playful, perky, and silly without being stupid. She reminded me of Jean Arthur in “The Whole Town’s Talking”. A highlight of both performances is an interrogation scene during which the breezy lady is hilariously unfazed by police pressure. The performances are also similar in how they changed my perception of an actress. I started out thinking of these women only as reliable supporting players in movies I watched for other stars.

Suddenly, they were great stars in their own right, and I wanted to see them in as many good leading roles as possible. The heroic couple in “There’s Always A Woman” didn’t become the popular pair Columbia Pictures wanted them to be. They only appeared in one sequel, with the wife character played by a different actress. Blondell couldn’t reprise her role because she was under contract to Warner Brothers and they wouldn’t let her work for a rival studio. I think there might have been more sequels if she’d been available.

Columbia Pictures didn’t get what they wanted from “There’s Always A Woman”. I got something even better. I got to see a star I’ve always liked reach her full potential. Her talent was brought into focus for me more than ever before. I enjoyed Joan Blondell’s antics and personality like those of some cartoon characters. With huge, always busy eyes and a giddy approach to physical comedy, she spends the movie scurrying around causing mischief.

Since I found this character so endearing, I understood why she was always loved and forgiven by her husband, even after being reckless and stubborn. At a crucial moment, the Blondell character’s policeman friend gives her a ride in his cop car. After dropping her off, he tells his partner, “There’s one fine little woman!” If I were the partner, I’d nod in agreement and reply, “You said it, pal!”


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