Three on a Match (1932)
Cast: Bette Davis, Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak
Writers: Luicien Hubbard, Kubec Glasmon,John Bright
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
This was part of a DVD collection I picked up called Forbidden Hollywood. This is a great series because it shows movies that were released before the Hayes code was put in to effect as the early ratings system in 1934. Movies around that time had rougher subject matter and showed a lot more skin then they do now. The ones from this era reminds me of the films of the seventies. Filmmakers were a bit more risky and took more chances. Yes we have a few of those filmmakers now, but not as many as before.
“Three on a Match” is about three childhood friends Mary(Joan Blondell), Ruth (Bette Davis) and Vivian(Ann Dvorak) whose life each run a different course. If you think I am describing the plot to “Charlie’s Angels“, you would be wrong. It shows the growth of these characters, but its main focus is on Vivian who becomes successful by marrying a lawyer(Warren William). She soon becomes bored with being successful and decides to go on a cruise to unease her mind. While there she meets and falls in love with a drug dealer and becomes a junkie.
For a movie that was made in the early thirties. I was surprised to see a movie that tackled the subject of drug addiction so openly. The only early one I could think of was “The Man with the Golden Arm” starring Frank Sinatra. That one went through a lot of hoops with the ratings board, and I’m sure this one would have too if it was released after the Hayes Code. One scene has Vivian high and telling her five-year old son to eat some old food on the table where she just did some cocaine. If this type of abuse was shown today it would have gotten an R rating for sure. There is not a lot of heavy language or violence, but it’s ending was kind of shocking back in its day and I’m sure would remain just as relevant today.
The cast all do a great job, and I plan on checking out more roles from Ann Dvorak because she does a really great performance. The only other movie I have seen Bette Davis in was “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane“. She was so creepy in that, I forgot how hot she used to look, and the fun characters she’s played. Humphrey Bogart has a small role as one of the drug dealer’s thugs and although he doesn’t say or do much. His presence is never forgotten.
“Three on a Match” was a pleasant surprise, and at just over an hour. The movie never over extends its moral message about drug use. I do wish that it explained why Vivian became a junkie so fast. I swear it seems like it happened over night. After watching this I will never make the assumption that older movies where always neat and clean. Some of them where down right dirty, and I loved it.