Short – “Just Around the Corner” (1933) Review, with Warren William, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, and Bette Davis

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Mr. Sears
Warren William
Mrs. Graham
Joan Blondell
Ginger
Bette Davis
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Jerry
Dick Powell
Mrs. Sears
Ruth Donnelly
Tim
Preston Foster
Released by Warner Bros. & General Electric
Run time: 13 minutes

Just Around the Corner: Dignity, Hopefully

“Great name, General Electric. I see you bought a name, not a product.”

“Yes, we bought General Electric. We had to be sure of what we were getting.”

I never thought I’d see a film of any kind that offers more screen time to a dishwasher than Joan Blondell, but, hey, live and learn. “Just Around the Corner” is a promotional short featuring a number of Warner Bros. contract stars being whored out– er, loaned out to General Electric to advertise some of their fancy new electrical household gadgets.

A number of songs from 42nd Street pop up as we’re led through the tale of Jerry, a salesman who wants a shot at the office chief job now that his supervisor is leaving. Unfortunately, it looks like Mr. Graham has a lock on things. (Grant calls his wife, played by Blondell, giving her a full 30 seconds of screen time here– and, shockingly, she’s just wearing a nightie.) However, when burly boss Mr. Sears learns that Jerry has a trout farm behind his house, he invites himself and the wife up for the weekend. There they learn all about how modern conveniences make it so easy to live, such as the amount of money saved with an electric refrigerator versus the more-common icebox.

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The brunt of the work is done by Bette Davis, which makes the whole affair somewhat funnier. Bette Davis explaining the benefits of a pull-out rack on an oven through gritted teeth is great, but imagining her chasing down the producer of this with the Oscar she’d earn the very next year is even funnier.

She spends much of the short with her back to the camera, less we detract from the appliances themselves. The director of the short is uncredited, but it’s unlikely to be anyone with much skill. The framing is often wonky, and we’re sometimes treated to lingering, silent shots on appliances. It’s probably not worth dwelling on how quaint the excitement over this decades-old technology feels now, especially in an era where I can buy a fridge where I have a camera stuck inside to see my celery rot in real time.

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Cliff explains over on WarrenWilliam.net that this YouTube version is short by about 5 minutes– that may be an epilogue, or it may be a pitch for salesmen illustrating further incentives. It’s likely the short was the result of G.E. sponsoring the 42nd Street Special, a train that carried a number of Warners stars to FDR’s inauguration. Or, considering how cash strapped the studio was in 1933, it may have just been a brief necessity.

The short is an amusing oddity, watching some actors known for their chops quietly begging for the pain to end from behind their eyes. This is no one’s best hour, but it’s always important to remember that the studio system punished people– either by taking advantage of their apathy or in other ways. This one sure feels it hard.

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Danny

Danny is a librarian who lives on the coast of California with his lovely wife, adorable daughter, and yappy dog. He blogs bi-weekly at pre-code.com, a website dedicated to Hollywood films from 1930 to 1934, and can be found on Twitter @PreCodeDotCom.

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