George White’s Scandals (1934) Review, with Rudy Vallee, Jimmy Durante, and Alice Faye

Kitty
Alice Faye
Happy
Jimmy Durante
Jimmy
Rudy Vallee
Released by Fox Film
Directed by George White
Run time: 79 minutes

Proof That It’s a Pre-Code Film

  • “You Nasty Man!” features gams galore and oodles of men focusing in on various lady appendages with delight.
  • Jimmy Durante has lost his pants. He admonishes to his girl, “Some day you may catch me with my pants on!” She scoffs, “That would be a novelty!”
  • Another number goes through a married couple’s life, from petting in the car to being old cranks. One portion of the sequence involves Ukelele Ike grabbing a catalogue before going into the bathroom and declaring it “so nice”. The couple’s grown daughter eventually gets them out of trouble with the landlord by producing $3,000 from her garter. Her dad asks her if she’s been good, she chortles, “To get $3,000 in Paduca, you gotta be good!”

  • “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” [checks out her hinder] “I guess I’ll have to get a bigger pipe.”
  • “Why you cheap ordinary common little–” [slap]
  • For all of the many people who have been following this site the last six years and have always thought, “Sure, Jimmy Durante is awful, and sure, blackface is reprehensible… but when are we going to see a movie that combines both of them?” WELL HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU
  • That’s also bookending one of the weirdest musical sequences I’ve seen in forever. It’s just… I don’t even know. Let’s say ‘culturally insensitive’ and ‘racist as shit’ and leave it at that.
Whaaaaaat the hell
  • There is one particularly messed up song. I mean, another one. It involves a bunch of young girls singing and dancing like showgirls, and even has one young girl doing a fan dance. Anyway, I’ll never be clean again.
  • Another song! Ukelele Ike goes on about how, “I had half a dozen [women] and was true to every one!” He also crows about loving a 200-pound-woman, “the kind that Greeks prefer!”
  • And another risque song! Three ethnic-stereotype fathers complain about having to take care of their children– this sequence does include naked baby butts. Fathers complain about the babies, “We ain’t got what they want!” They are relieved, however, that they can finally use the bathtub since they no longer need it to make gin.

  • A big congratulations to George White’s Scandals: this may be the very first pre-Code movie I’ve seen that’s featured fart jokes.
  • “I wonder what they’ll do when they find out they’re really married.”
    “Heh. What do you think they’ll do?”

George White’s Scandals: Hooting, Hollering

“What are you doing? Studying to become an idiot?”

The 1934 version of George White’s Scandals is one of those films I have been tracking down since I started this site over 6 long years ago and, like many things in my life, rank disappointment abounds.

The plot is about as loose as these things come. There are six people trapped in various love conflagrations that all must be worked out by the film’s end. These actors are also putting on a show of Scandals unfolding at the same time as the drama. George White, playing himself, helps to align the pieces while keeping things from completely careening off the rails.

The Scandals, for those of you just joining us, was a yearly stage show that highlighted a variety of sketches and acts focused on merriment and titilation. They’d started in 1919 and were still running when this picture entered the scene. If you’ve heard of Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies, this this is the Fox-ish version of that MGM-ish show.

Musical numbers abound and compromise much of the film. I discussed the most interesting ones in great detail above. Most are smug and smutty in the ways a teenager would appreciate and not striving for much more.

One– which a cadre of Scandals-girls postulate their daughters dancing in the show only a few years down the line– is icky on top of everything. It reminded me all-too-well of Graham Greene’s assessment of Shirley Temple fans, especially since Temple is supposedly among the dancers in the scene. (The print I viewed, as I’m sure you can tell from these screen grabs, is muddy enough that for all I know Eleanor Roosevelt may have been a backup dancer.)

Vallee is still in the ‘one facial expression’ phase of his career, where his eyes are drawn together and his mouth frozen into a rictus. Alice Faye, America’s Aunt Who Smokes Five Packs a Day, is in a low-key charm mode, stuck with a character whose entire purpose is to pine for Rudee Vallee, one of the most insurmountable tasks that could be given to an actress. The movie does try and top it, though– incredulously, even Jimmy Durante has a love interest.

I won’t say the makers of George White’s Scandals didn’t care, just that every plot beat and trick they pull was done better in the Warner Bros. musicals of Busby Berkeley, whom they’re clearly trying to ape. There is some uniquely risque stuff, much of it borderline objectionable in a way that makes you wonder if they wondered about exactly what they were putting across.

If you want to see the outer reaches of what old Hollywood could produce, George White Scandals with a leer on its face, this is probably a good option. But that’s about the only time I’d use ‘good’ in relation to it at all.

Screen Capture Gallery

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Other Reviews, Trivia, and Links

  • TCMDB has a lot about Alice Faye’s rise and much on the censor’s push backs against this film.

According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Hays Office objected to three “gags” contained in the picture: a scene during the “So Nice” song in which “Stew Hart” picks up a toilet seat and tells “Patsy Dey” that she can use it as a frame for a picture of her mother; another scene from “So Nice” in which “Stew” picks up a catalog and states that he is leaving the room; and a sequence in which “Patsy,” who is bending over to peer through a keyhole, rejects “Stew’s” proposal and tells him to “put that in your pipe and smoke it.” In response, “Stew” states: “Well, I guess I’ll have to get a bigger pipe.” Although the other scenes were left in, the catalog gag was apparently shortened, and the picture received a seal of approval from the Hays Office. After the film was released, however, many state and city censor boards and civic organizations lodged protests against it with the Hays Office and Fox. The three scenes mentioned above were objected to, as were the song “Nasty Man,” sung by Faye, and the Meglin Kiddies sequence in which one of the children does a fan dance and sings “Nasty Man.” The film was banned by the Legion of Decency and was withdrawn from release by Fox on February 15, 1935.

  • Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times says that this one has, “some clever ideas in the musical numbers.” However, he also manages the single worst line I’ve read in a movie review in years. Savor how awful this is, on so many levels:

Mr. Durante is especially amusing when he appears in black face, which does not detract markedly from his personal appearance.

  • Here are some fan magazines promotions for the film:

Awards, Accolades & Availability

  • This film, as mentioned above, is a super obscure one. I wish you luck in finding it!

More Pre-Code to Explore

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