Thursday, November 4, 2010


The pro-labor paper, The Cleveland Citizen made note of the "Hearstian", anti-labor, Red-baiting film, Riffraff.

Jean Harlow and Hollywood newcomer Spencer Tracy get to show off their woiking class acting chops in this flicker, released January 3, 1936. Tracy plays a commercial fisherman, Harlow a gal working the cannery, they are married and extremely unpleasant characters.

Tracy (Dutch Miller) talks his brother fishermen out a strike, knowing the Boss, Nick Lewis, will only break their contracts and hire scabs. When he becomes the new head of the union, he calls a strike and is proven right. All union workers are driven into poverty.

Meanwhile, Boss Nick loves Hattie and tries to woo her after Dutch moves out and ends up in a hobo camp. Hattie steals cash from Nick to give to Dutch, but he runs from her, and Nick presses charges, landing the now-pregnant Hattie in prison.

Industrial sabotage. Girl prison break. Little Mickey Rooney playing a goddamn trumpet. Dutch comes clean, he and Hattie reunite - with the new baby - and everything is happily ever after.
"Miss Harlow the comedienne is one person. Miss Harlow the tragedienne is another. And when the new photoplay at the Capitol choose to accent the less convincing personality and to cast a somber eye upon such weighty matters as labor in revolt, the Red menace, motherhood and life in a women's prison, then, alas, a boisterous jest skids down the slopes of melodramatic routine." - The New York Times
Apparently the prison break scene result in a lawsuit against MGM from the California State Industrial Welfare Committee because of the women actors who became ill as a result of working through an actual downpour. They each received an extra $15.

The Cleveland Citizen
The New York Times

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