Plot: Sadie (Glenda Farrell) and Mae (Joan Blondell) are burlesque dancers, but neither cares much for the work or the clientele involved. The two always seem to be in trouble, which leads to unpaid leave or even fines, so the friends are on the lookout for a new line of work. The chance of a lifetime soon presents itself when Sadie and Mae learn about Cuba, where rich men line the streets and beautiful women such as themselves could live in the lap of luxury. There happens to be a hitch however, as neither of them have enough money to make the trek to Cuba, though Mae is able to use her wiles to find a solution. She knows lunkhead Herman (Allen Jenkins) is head over heels for her, so she makes up a sob story and he borrows the money from his crime lord boss, unaware he is being hustled. But will Sadie and Mae find the free living paradise they expect or will their old lives catch up with them soon enough?
Entertainment Value: This was a fun one, a brisk movie that offers up laughs, great dialogue, and a terrific ensemble of talent. The narrative has multiple threads and no weak links, with a number of opportunities that let the characters drive the movie, rather than the story itself. And with a cast like this, that was a wise choice, as the performances are terrific and immense fun to watch. So letting the characters run the show elevates an already solid narrative to new heights, bringing a lot more to the table than it might have otherwise. The cast is wonderful, but the script deserves some praise as well, as Havana Widows is chock full of humorous and sharp dialogue, delivered with skill by the performers. The story might not be all that memorable, but the dialogue is on point and the movie has a consistent flow of banter, made all the better by the colorful characters involved. As someone who loves witty banter, I was in heaven here, as there are so many great scenes with this terrific cast playing off each other and engaging in clever exchanges. At just over an hour, Havana Widows keeps a brisk pace and never overstays its welcome, so it packs a lot of entertainment in that short duration, which I appreciate. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys classic films, pre-code cinema, or the excellent cast involved.
I had immense fun with Havana Widows, but I am quite biased in this case, as I always have a good time when Joan Blondell is on the cast list. I think she makes any movie better, even in a small role, but here she has one of the leads and it is a pleasure to see her work her magic. Blondell was a master of sharp barbs and witty banter, skills that are well showcased in this movie and I love that she has even more poison than normal on some of her snark. Even when she takes people down a peg or unleashes gossip, she remains likable and quite hilarious. I just marvel at how she can steal a scene from anyone and commands the spotlight so well, but she also manages to elevate whoever happens to be in the scenes with her, not a common skill. Glenda Farrell is wonderful as always too and of course, she and Blondell light up the screen and prove to be such an enjoyable tandem. The two play off each other to humorous ends, but also shine in some great scenes with Allen Jenkins. Jenkins is a lot of fun here in his own right, providing consistent laughs when he’s around. The cast also includes Ruth Donnelly, Lyle Talbot, Guy Kibbee, and Frank McHugh.
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