A First National Picture - 1932
Directed by William A. Wellman
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as Jimmy Russell
Ann Dvorak as Sally
Frances Dee as Mary Wodehouse
Lee Tracy as Stanley Fiske
Lyle Talbot as Eddie Shaw
Warren Hymer, Andre Luguet,
Cecil Cunningham, Terrance Ray
Frances' first scene in Love is a Racket is staged in typical pre-code fashion: she, clad in lingerie, places a garter on her leg as the camera pans upward from her ankle to her face. Thus we are introduced to Mary Wodehouse, a sly and ambitious actress of charms to beguile even savvy Broadway columnist Jimmy Russell (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.).
Jimmy: “Darling, I know what a liar you are, but for some fool reason I'm going to let you get away with it just once more.”
An extravagant beauty in more ways than one, Mary has been funding purchases with rubber checks, to a total of roughly $3,000. Her debtors are threatening to make trouble; but dispatching Jimmy to quell their threats is wasted effort, for the bad checks have already been covered by gangster Eddie Shaw (Lyle Talbot), who wants Mary's "gratitude" in return.
A brisk, biting comedy directed by William Wellman, Love is a Racket was Frances' lone Warner Bros. film, and as much a departure in role as it was in studio. Her character, Mary Wodehouse, is a cat after cream, and likely to get it.
The production of Love is a Racket fit into one of the busiest periods of Frances' career. She was working on multiple films simultaneously; her weariness was becoming evident, but it worked to the advantage of her character in Racket, giving Mary Wodehouse a coquettish langour, which sharpens the undercurrent of double-dealing as she turns a sweet-faced smiled upon Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Frances very nearly played her minx opposite Warner's top male star, James Cagney,1 for whom the role of the Jimmy Russell had been intended. If it could have come off, what an interesting teaming that might have been!
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