Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thirteen Women (1932)

Thirteen Women
Director: George Archainbaud
USA 1932
59 min

A woman, Ursula Georgi (Myrna Loy), seeks revenge for being excluded from a school club for being half Asian by killing off her previous schoolmates one by one. How does she do it? She uses her psychotic powers and manipulates a fortune teller called Swami Yogadashi (C. Henry Gordon) to send them letters were he predicts their bloodfilled destinies.

Some of the thirteen women. Jill Esmond, Mary Duncan, Kay Johnson, Irene Dunne, Florence Eldridge, Peg Entwistle, Harriet Hagman and Julie Haydon.

This is a quite bad movie. I'm surprised to say that about a pre-code film with Irene Dunne and Myrna Loy, but it is. The acting is in that state of melodrama that it feels like the films is from 1902 rather than 1932. But you can always laugh at it.
Also - there are too many characters. It is of course quite amusing to watch a lot of women with bobbed hairdoes die in different ways, but it slices up the picture too much. And they all look the same!
But I feel that I have to praise Loy for her performance. It is nice to have seen her in one of the evil-Asian-type-casted characters she played before her break-through with Manhattan Melodrama (1934), and she is very creepy.

This film is probably best remembered for being the only surviving footage of legend Peg Entwistle, "The Hollywood Sign Girl". Two days after the premiere of the film she climbed up on the "H" of the Hollywood sign (then reading "Hollywoodland") and jumped to her death. I include mentioned footage in the film clip below, which also shows the evil Ursula Georgi.

This film was supposed to have been 73 minutes long, but was cut to 59 minutes for two reasons. The first reason being that the film was everything but a box-office hit, the other reason being that Irene Dunne had just made success at another studio, and by cutting some scenes the film would focus more on her character.

Funny trivia: Myrna Loy was chosen for the half-Asian character before real Asian Anna May Wong...

Myrna Loy as Ursula Georgi.


Kate Gabrielle said...

For the first time ever, I disagree with you about a film-- I love this movie! I had seen it years ago, and when it was on TCM a few months ago, I was thrilled beyond belief, and made sure I taped it! It's campy and sort of melodramatic, but sometimes isn't that what makes pre-codes fun? And Myrna Loy is a hoot in this film!

Lolita said...

Kate Gabrielle:
Interesting! But I don't reject the entire picture - I really like the plot. Murders by self-fulfilling prophecies and all. But I don't think the film is well done, and the acting is just toooo much! But you're right about the pre-codes.
But I like Myrna Loy! ;)

Sebina said...

I have this in my collection and have yet to see. Even Bad and lesser Pre-Codes I find myself adoring.

Lolita said...

You're right on that point, Sebina! Even though I found this film quite corny, I'd still like to have it in my DVD collection. Pre-codes are Pre-codes, you love them just for that. And the history behind the movie, and the soon-to-be-film stars Loy and Dunne, make this film worth your while.

Keith said...

Maybe it's a good thing then that I've never seen this movie. That's a shame though. I'm such a big fan of Myrna Loy and Irene Dunne.

Raquelle said...

I have to agree with Kate Gabrielle. I enjoyed this film and to see Myrna Loy in such an a-typical role for her was quite a treat.

Raquelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacqueline T Lynch said...

I've never seen it, but your post and the information you provide is swell. I'll be sure to look for this in the future.

Lolita said...

Oh, but see it if you get the chance! It's obviously a film that you want to have an opinion about!

What a nice discussion this became! Yes, it is a real little piece of film history ;)

Jacqueline T Lynch:
Thank you! Yes, keep your eyes open!

* R e N a * said...

I think this is such a good film and very ahead of its time! It's also good to see Irene and Myrna together and of course, the only known appearance of Peg Entwistle, who sadly took her own life shortly after this film was released...