Director: John Farrow
Cast: Kay Francis, Dickie Moore, Bonita Granville, John Litel, Anita Louise, Bobby Jordan, Maurice Murphy, Elisabeth Risdon, and Helena Phillips Evans
Okay, okay, so it is rather predictable.
Okay, okay, so it is rather hard to swallow at times
Okay, okay, perhaps it is a little sentimental and perhaps the plot all unfolds a little too conveniently, but it is touching.
That’s right. My Bill with Kay Francis and Dickie Moore, is heart-warming and fun, despite some weaknesses. It won’t particularly stand out as the ultimate example of film making at its finest, but it is carried by very competent performances, universal dramatic themes and a scandalous subtext that it dances around but lends some meat and depth to what comes across as a pretty fluffy film on the surface.
It follows the life of a family that has recently lost their father. The widow (played by Kay Francis) has done the best she can with the money she was left by her successful husband but due to some unfortunate investments she is rapidly running low and the family is in danger of loosing everything. She has four kids to look after ranging in age from approximately seven to approximately eighteen or nineteen. As mentioned before, the performances in the film are all very impressive, especially from the children. Amongst the children shines a more then competent actor, Dickie Moore who plays the youngest son, a precocious young man who is as loyal to his mother as he is cute. Of all the performances Dickie Moore’s portrayal of Bill really steals the show and elevates the film from mediocre at best to not only charming and enjoyable but touching and quite emotionally engaging at times.
Kay Francis is as charming as ever. She had a lot of range and it is fun to see how much her many characters varied from one another yet a certain screen presence always bleeds through and Kay is always there, whether she is playing a whore, a business woman, a doctor or a nurturing and loving homemaker like she is in in this film. You can’t help but sympathize with her as she struggles through difficult financial times but all the while keeps chipper and shields the family from the trouble.
Soon she is on the brink of loosing everything and worst of all a relative of her recently deceased husband materializes with some nasty accusations and even nastier intentions for this struggling mother and her emotionally fragile young family.
Kay Francis often faced hardships in her films, she was like the soap queen of the time, long before there were soap operas obviously, and while there is very real drama in the film, it is all rather light-hearted and fun, not melodramatic like some of her rolls in some of her films. You never doubt she will prevail and you never doubt her son will play a part in it and while it is somewhat predictable, it is still a great little film about persisting even when you hit rock bottom and about the importance of family and loved ones, espeically during hard times.
One last thought on Dickie Moore. As I watched the film I felt like Dickie Moore was familiar. I knew his face was a face I had seen before many times and clearly in something I knew well but couldn’t recall. I couldn’t place him however and even after finishing the movie I still couldn’t figure out where I had seen him before. I knew he must have grown up to be an adult and perhaps played a part as an adult that I was very familiar with, but yet I couldn’t come up with a title to save my life. Now, if you plan to watch it and you are familiar with classic films and you want to see if you can place him, don’t finish this paragraph. For the rest of you, I’ll tell you what he was in, and I kicked myself for not being able to come up with it. It turns out he had a key part in one of the best known film noirs of the 40s. None other then Out of the Past. He plays the deaf boy working at the service station. For those familiar with Out of the Past, you know exactly who I mean, and you can understand why I kicked myself for not placing him. He does have a distinct look, and he is someone a film noir fan should recognize, but in those 9 years from 1938 to 1947 he was completely transformed from a round-faced little child into a slender, even lanky young man, with a thin face. It is the same face though. He was great in both movies, and both are movies worth seeing if you haven’t seen them already.