Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, Academy Awards 1930/1931.. . Screenplay by , , suggested by the book Dark Star by . Cinematography by . Produced by , . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .
won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as the salty matron who runs a crummy wharf-side tavern, brawling with her boyfriend ( ) while doing her best to raise her adopted daughter ( ) properly. The little girl can’t seem to stay out of trouble, so Dressler sends her away to a fine boarding school with money that she has put aside, overjoyed to see her come back years later turned out and refined and engaged to a wealthy man. The problem is that the girl’s biological mother, a fallen woman (played by ) who entrusted Jordan to Dressler as a baby, has decided to get back into her daughter’s life now that she sees her as a ticket to easy street. In seventy brisk minutes, the film covers a great deal of territory familiar to Depression-era audiences already saturated with tales of sacrificial mother types, throwing in random elements like an exciting boat chase to make sure the kids have a good time too. All its tired devices are put across with a great deal of heart, for while Dressler and Beery’s tempestuous scenes of breaking furniture are ridiculous, they’re also funny and performed by actors whose personality has enough detail to sell you on their relationship, while her honesty in the closing act never lets it feel like the sentimental treacle that it truly is.