The Stolen Jools (1931)

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This film was viewed for the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project. To view more reviews from this project, check out TMP’s Listography page.

The Stoolen Jools is a star-studded short, produced for charity. All of the actors involved donated their time to complete the picture, and it was distributed to theaters at no cost. After the show, donations would be collected for a tuberculosis sanatorium — the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Many of the stars appear as themselves — Norma Shearer, Irene Dunne, and Joan Crawford, for example. Hal Roach’s Rascals eat ice cream on the front stoop of Shearer’s house.

"All of Hollywood in two reels" -- That tagline isn't far from the truth! (Image via Ricardo Cineman)

“All of Hollywood in two reels” — That tagline isn’t far from the truth! (Image via Ricardo Cineman)

The story revolves around the mystery of some jewels that have been stolen from Norma Shearer. The suspect list is just about infinite — practically anyone in Hollywood could be at fault! The jewels were found to be missing just after Miss Shearer hosted a massive party.

It’s a very thin story, the real attraction being the fact that so many big names are sharing the screen. The film serves its purpose, in this respect. It’s a delight to watch thanks to the million cameo appearances of yesteryear’s biggest stars.

It’s a film that has a sense of humor and plays up the public personas of its many stars — Edward G. Robinson appears as a gangster who is after the jewels, for example, and Gary Cooper as a serious news man.

Barbara Stanwyck appears as herself, or “Mrs. Frank Fay.” In her brief scene, Stanwyck reads a poem that she’s written to Frank and the detective.

In a year or so the girl returned,
and mighty proud was she.
She told how she’d done her duty
in the great war o’er the sea.
She told how she’d picked up the wounded
and held each one to her breast,
so the woodworkers got together
and made her a cedar chest.

Her audience isn’t terribly receptive, and the scene soon becomes the film’s strangest.

After the poem is recited, Barbara goes outside to the garden with the detective, and Frank plugs his hears as a gunshot sounds. Has our dear Stany been killed for writing a poem Frank doesn’t like? (In that case, boy, does Frank Fay ever come off as the world’s most cruel husband!) Has one of the two souls in the garden decided it’s a beautiful day for squirrel hunting? We don’t see Stanwyck or Fay again in the picture.

It’s a very small role in the scope of this very brief film, even smaller considering the version I watched at archive.org had part of her scene missing. It’s fun to see her in this quite early appearance, however odd and short it may be.

Stanwyck reads her poem. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Stanwyck reads her poem. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

If you’re a fan of pre-code films and the talents involved in them, I would certainly recommend dedicating twenty minutes or so of your time to checking out The Stolen Jools. As described above, its appeal stems solely from its impressive roster, but how often do we tune into films just to see one particular star? Here, you can see a whole gaggle of ’em at once! The story is as thin as onion skin and some of the jokes don’t land, but it’s worth a look for reasons of nostalgia or curiosity.

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