Blondie Johnsons (Joan Blondell) been kicked around by the depression: her mother is dead, and she cant find a job anywhere without some schmoozing boss trying to take advantage of her. Her main drive becomes swindling and forgetting about honesty. Befriending a taxi driver (Sterling Holloway), they begin to con whomever they can get their hands on.
Blondies smart, shes brutal, and she doesnt believe in any of this female wiles business either; its always business before pleasure at all times. Her wits and determination is what she uses to get her way.
Eventually, her small-time con catches the eye of Danny Jones (Chester Morris), the second-hand to a big gangster, Max (Arthur Vinton). Blondie sees an opportunity with Jones and decides to help him free Louis (Allen Jenkins), his pal, from a sure-fire conviction. With Danny at her side, Blondie works up the underground ladder. However, Dannys the only one thats made her business before pleasure motto a hard one to follow.
Max, on the other hand, is none too pleased with Danny, so he literally runs Danny over for getting too ambitious. Knowing the threat that Max poses, Blondie schemes to rub him out once and for all. The gang, run by Blondies genius, snuff Max out, and Danny starts running the front, making their business schemes look legitimate.
Unsurprisingly, Dannys head starts to get big, forgetting who helped him get there. He manages to enrage Blondie, so she gives him the boot, and now she's the one in charge.
Directed by Ray Enright, Blondie Johnson (1933) was Blondells first solo starring role, and a rare gangster flick where the gangster is a woman. Even more surprising for a pre-code, she doesnt use sex to get what she wants.
"The only thing worthwhile is tropes. And Im going to get it, see?:
- Being Good Sucks: Propels Blondie to get into the con business.
- Behind Every Great Man: Theres a Blondie Johnson to think of all the ideas and not get much of the credit until shes had enough.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Danny and Blondie have loads of it.
- Celibate Hero: Heroine. Blondie has to fight Danny off constantly.
- Clear My Name: Inverted: Blondies creates a fraud scheme to get a jewelry store to pay for their insurance. She bought a bracelet for $4600, and tries to sell it for $600. The jewelers find out, and think she gave them a bad check, so they arrest her for fraud. Turns out it wasnt a bad check, and Blondie pretends to be a grand lady who threatens to sue to clear her name, but Danny comes in with his insurance trick to get the jeweler out of the sticky situation.
- Courtroom Antic: Blondie's scheme to help Louie beat the rap is for Louis's lawyer to rant in court about how Blondie is pregnant with Louie's baby and how they were going to get married and be happy if not for the inconvenient trial. Then Blondie bursts into tears, runs over to Louis, and embraces him. It works.
- Crapsack World: The 1930s were not fun unless you're filthy stinking rich.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: A rare female example with Blondie: she gets all the money she could want but realizes it's Lonely at the Top.
- Dead-Hand Shot: The scene where Max is bumped off by rivals has a tommy gun poking through a hidden panel and opening fire. The next shot shows Max's bloody hand flopping over, dropping a cigarette.
- Deadpan Snarker: What did you expect out of a Joan Blondell picture?
- Deceased Parents Are the Best: Blondies mother dies at the beginning of the film and propels the plot of Blondie deciding to make all the money that she can by swindling.
- Downer Beginning: Rain, welfare, and dead mothers.
- Feet-First Introduction: The introduction shows all of the runs in Blondie's stockings.
- Funny Foreigner: During Louis' trial, a Swedish spectator falls for Blondies story of being madly in love with Louis in order to pull the jurors heartstrings, and inadvertently, she makes the spectator fall in love with her.
- Golddigger: Gladys, Maxs girlfriend, eventually becomes Dannys fiancée, but she ditches him once he becomes poor.
- Gray Rain of Depression: Blondie runs through the rain to find out that her mother has finally succumbed to pneumonia.
- Grey-and-Gray Morality: Society has screwed Blondie over, and now its time for Blondie to screw over society!
- The Great Depression: There's people who have everything, then the people who have nothing.
- Ice Queen: Its always business before pleasure with Blondie.
- I Will Wait for You: Both Danny and Blondie vow to be together after they serve their jail sentences.
- Left for Dead: Danny, and he lives to go to jail!
- Lonely at the Top: Managing to get all the money she could ask for, Blondie feels depressed that she can't have Danny too.
- No Honor Among Thieves: While Louis is being tried, Max decides to take over his side of the business. Later on, everyone believes Danny spilled the beans about Maxs murder because Blondie kicked him out of the business.
- Oh, Crap!: When Blondie realizes Danny wasnt a stoolie.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Blondie is never called by her actual name, Virginia.
- Pretty in Mink: Once Blondies in the money, she starts wearing an array of furs.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Blondie kicks Danny out.Blondie:Theres going to be a big change around here, and its going to start tonight!Danny: Ohhh, big showdown.Blondie:Youre right its a showdown. Youve been giving orders long enough. Now, youre going to take some.Danny:Yeah? From who?Blondie:From me! When you tried to cross me, you overlooked one little thing, I put you where you are. When you were yellow and wanted to quit, I made you go on. And now Im going to stop you, see? Stop you right in your tracks.Danny: I dont know what your beefing about. Who double crossed you?Blondie: You did! Theres the powder you gave me. You didnt even have nerve enough to tell it to me to my face.
- Running Gag: The Swedish guy who fell in love with Blondie from afar comes to her house once with roses, and another time with chocolates, but always finds Danny at the door to tell him to scram.
- Simple, yet Opulent: All of Blondies dresses are a classic example of this.
- Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Averted to the point that Blondies friends ask her why she wont give Danny a tumble when its obvious they like each other.
- The Stoic: Blondie for the majority of the film.
- The Stool Pigeon: Danny. Or so Blondie and the gang believed until her lawyer tells her it was an eye-witness who ratted out on Louis.
- Token Minority: A rare example from a 1930s film with LuLu, Blondies friend, played by Toshia Mori.
- Trouser Space: Blondie gets a pat down, and they find a gun near her nether regions.
- Women Are Wiser: Blondie is the whole brains of the operations, and uses her smarts to get ahead in the mob business.