Blonde Crazy (1931): Del Ruth’s Pre-Code Romantic Serio-Comedy, Starring James Cagney and Joan Blondell

Roy Del Ruth directed Blonde Crazy, pre-Code romantic comedy-drama, starring James Cagney and Joan Blondell in one of the best of their seven features together,

Bert Harris (Cagney), who works as a hotel bellboy, meets Anne Roberts (Blondell), the new chambermaid. He takes fancy to her and lets her in on his racket, conning people out of money. They arrange for married hotel guest A. Rupert Johnson Jr. to be caught in a compromising position with Anne and get $5000 to keep a (fake) policeman from taking him to jail.

They leave town, embarking on grander crooked schemes. Anne is in love with Bert, but by the time he proposes, she has taken liking to the more respectable Joe Reynolds (Ray Milland) and marries him.

After traveling around Europe (“I want to see swell places, meet swell people”), Bert returns to the United States, he is no longer interested in crime. However, Anne tracks him down and asks for $30,000, after Joe embezzles that amount from his employer.

Bert then comes up with a plan to break into the safe and steal money and bonds, but Joe double-crosses him; he has the police waiting for him. Bert escapes in his car, but is captured by the police.

When Anne visits him in jail, Bert persuades her not to reveal everything to the police, and she vows to wait for him after serving his sentence.

Ray Milland plays a small part here, but he the next decade, he would become a major star.

Cagney’s line, “That dirty, double-crossin’ rat!” became famously quotable when used by celeb impersonators.

James Cagney as Bert Harris
Joan Blondell as Anne Roberts
Louis Calhern as Dapper Dan Barker
Noel Francis as Helen
Ray Milland as Joe Reynolds
Guy Kibbee as A. Rupert Johnson Jr.

Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Written by Kubec Glasmon and John Bright
Music by Leo F. Forbstein
Cinematography: Sidney Hickox
Edited by Ralph Dawson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date: December 3, 1931
Running time: 79 minutes


I am grateful to TCM for showing the film on December 5, 2019.