Strictly Dynamite (1934) Review

Proof That It’s Pre-Code

  • I wish I could say vague racism is restricted to Pre-Code movies, but that’s a damn lie.
  • Adultery galore, though it’s all sitting in the back of taxis and smooching someone while your wife is in another taxi smooching someone else.

Danny DISLIKESo earlier this week, I was looking at my list of reviews that I’ve done for this weekly column, and I noticed a rather unsettling trend: so far, more often than not, I liked everything. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re failing to provide a critical component as a film critic, and that, of course, is to criticize the film.

“Maybe I just love the film of the 1930’s too much!” I cried to myself. “Maybe I will like everything that era had to offer just because I love it so!”

And, like rain on my wedding day, I was soon blessed with the chore of reviewing this turd.

A struggling poet decides to write for a big act on radio. He hits it big through luck and ends up ditching his loving wife for a flashy star. He realizes he made a mistake and straightens up, and the big star ends up liking his poetry enough not to have him killed.

And with that laff-a-minute premise outlined, let me delve into the particulars. The film stars Jimmy Durante, a comedian with a schnozz that engulfs most of his face. If you’ve ever heard his trademark “ha-cha-cha!”, then you’ve apparently run into the limits of his talent.

They are wearing funny costumes and it is funny.

His character here is mean spirited, rude, and abrupt, which at least puts him on par with the rest of the cast. He plays opposite of an actress named Lupe Velez who was not on the screen for much more than her looks, and even that stretches it. Her heavy accent and blunt delivery attunes both her and Durante to the level of a charmless cartoon with sad reality dripping down the edges.

I haven’t even touched the other two main characters, a bad writer and his wife. The problem with writing bad writers is that the screenplay they star in should not suffer by comparison. Their romance is that dreary Hollywood sort of thing where they love each other because the plot requires it.

And this film is long on plot, short on reality or laughs. A movie about a comedian has no right being this dreadfully unfunny.


Danny lives outside Tokyo, Japan, with his lovely wife, adorable daughter, and two yappy dogs. He blogs bi-weekly at, a website dedicated to Hollywood films from 1930 to 1934, and can be found on Twitter @PreCodeDotCom.

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