hollywood in the early 30s was an interesting time/place for movies. i’m no film historian, but it seems to me that you’ve got the end of the silent era, the replacement of silent era stars, the mass production of studio movies, pre-code subject matter and it’s all taking place in the midst of the great depression. i get that it’s not the way singin in the rain makes it out to be (since they dont even acknowledge that there was a time in hollywood before the code or give any hint that the movie is supposed to be taking place during the great depression), but what i imagine they got right is how the shift from away from silent movie coupled with the fact that movies, at this point, had only existed for a few decades created a kind of convention-less period where movies didnt know what they were supposed to look/sound like. pretty soon they established conventions and began to apply ford’s assembly line to the production of movies. but for a brief period in the early sound era, you get these hollywood movies with such unusual and shocking styles, themes and characters.
while credited to director micheal curtiz (from casablanca fame), most of the movie was actually directed by william wellman (from a star is born fame). at least that’s what i read on the internet. this movie features ms allison drake as the head of an major automobile company. essentially, she treats men the way men treat women with some hilarious results. she’s all business at work, but occasionally invites male subordinates over for dinner (and a little more) at her awesome house which features a pipe organ suspended 15 feet above the ground in her living room. she also got a great pool with some of the funniest sculptures i’ve seen featured in a movie. (there’s this great joke where one of the guys she invites over for dinner compares ms drake to a statue and she quickly responds that she hopes it’s not that one as the movie cuts to an abstract female sculpture.) when her subordinate employees fall in love with her (usually after one evening together), she tells them to not get sentimental and even transfers them to montreal if they keep pressuring her into marriage.
later on she falls for this guy who invented an automatic shifter. he, however, doesnt fall for ms drake precisely because she’s a business woman. ms drake’s secretary (a mr pettigrew) explains to her that men like mr thorne (who invented the automatic gear-shifter) is a primitive sort of man that needs to feel like his woman needs protection. so ms drake sets up a fake picnic where she gets mr thorne to start a fire and look for sources of food. then he falls for her (in this great scene where they keep describing each other as very cool).
the ending of the film, like the divorcee, has the assertive woman submitting to traditional roles of womanhood. while this is probably a kind of backlash movie against the flappers in the 20s, the ending proves to be hollow and tacked on. like you have this awesome, smart woman controlling the entire film until she fits back into traditional, conservative roles for the last 30 seconds of the film.
anyway, the film is super funny and only an hour long. and the rest of the movie in the forbidden hollywood set are great too.