Millie (1931)

Millie Blake (Helen Twelvetrees) is a popular young girl who, soon after her father’s death, accepts a proposal from the wealthy Jack Maitland (James Hall) and the two decide to elope. They move to New York to begin their lives together.

(Image via Pinterest)

(Image via Pinterest)

Flash forward a few years and Millie has become a mother to a baby girl named Connie. Troubled by her husband’s tendency to stay away from the home and take lots of “business” trips, Millie is a lonely wife.

One night, Millie is invited to meet Angie Wickerstaff (Joan Blondell), and old friend from her hometown, at a local cabaret. She accepts the invitation, eager to quell her loneliness with a reunited friendship. But at the cabaret, she sees her husband smoochin’ on a blond woman.

Having uncovered the truth of Jack’s infidelity, Millie divorces him. Heartbroken and fearful that she won’t be able to care for Connie on her own, she leaves the child with Jack’s family, where she will have a prosperous life. Millie is careful to maintain a relationship with her daughter, calling her every day and visiting her every weekend.

Millie’s life continues to follow a path of highs (getting a job and becoming financially independent) and lows (a failed relationship with an unfaithful reporter, portrayed by Robert Ames).  Things take a very dramatic turn when Connie (now played by Anita Louise) reaches the age of seventeen and is pursued by smarmy men, from whom Millie is desperate to protect her daughter.

John Francis Dillion (Call Her Savage) directs Millie, a pre-code drama released in 1931. The film is based on a novel by Donald Henderson Clarke (Born Reckless).

Millie is a film with a very clear structure and, throughout most of its run-time, a rather predictable story. Title cards separate each section of Millie’s life, from her “youth” just before her marriage to the year she divorced her husband to nearly a decade later.

(Image via Movietone Cameos)

(Image via Movietone Cameos)

The first two of these three sections consume more than half of the film’s 85-minute length and are a bit slow-moving. The twist of flashing all the way forward to Connie’s teen years is successful and makes the film a lot more interesting. It’s an effective pick-me-up to the film’s pace. Rather than seeing Millie follow through the same cycle of falling for one wrong man after another as we did in the film’s first half, we see her wanting to protect her daughter from the same fate, and willing to go to great lengths to do so.

The cast of the film is very good, and the majority of them do well with the material. The best performances come from the women: Helen Twelvetrees as Millie, Joan Blondell in an early supporting role as Angie and Anita Louise as teenage Connie. It’s well-known ’round these parts that I’m a huge fan of Joan Blondell, and she’s the reason I initially added the film to my Netflix DVD queue, but I was most impressed by Twelvetrees, who leads the film with a strong portrayal of a struggling-but-perseverant woman.

Though the final act of the film is undoubtedly the best part, on the whole Millie isn’t a bad watch. If you can get through the inconsistently-paced first half, it’s worth watching for the twist-y final act and for the performances. The score: 3/5

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  1. Pingback: Star Spotlight: Joan Blondell | the motion pictures

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