Blondie Johnsonís (Joan Blondell) been kicked around by the depression: her mother is dead, and she canít 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.
Blondieís smart, sheís brutal, and she doesnít believe in any of this ďfemale wilesĒ business either; itís 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, Dannyís the only one thatís 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 Blondieís genius, snuff Max out, and Danny starts running the front, making their business schemes look legitimate.
Unsurprisingly, Dannyís 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 Blondellís first solo starring role, and a rare gangster flick where the gangster is a woman. Even more surprising for a pre-code, she doesnít use sex to get what she wants.
"The only thing worthwhile is tropes. And Iím going to get it, see?Ē:
- Being Good Sucks: Propels Blondie to get into the con business.
- Behind Every Great Man: Thereís a Blondie Johnson to think of all the ideas and not get much of the credit until sheís 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: Blondieís creates a fraud scheme to get a jewelry store to pay for their ďinsurance.Ē 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 wasnít 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 ďinsuranceĒ trick to get the jeweler out of the sticky situation.
- 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: Blondieís 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 Blondieís story of being madly in love with Louis in order to pull the jurorsí heartstrings, and inadvertently, she makes the spectator fall in love with her.
- Golddigger: Gladys, Maxís girlfriend, eventually becomes Dannyís 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 itís time for Blondie to screw over society!
- The Great Depression: There's people who have everything, then the people who have nothing.
- Ice Queen: Itís 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 Maxís murder because Blondie kicked him out of the business.
- Oh, Crap!: When Blondie realizes Danny wasnít a stoolie.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Blondie is never called by her actual name, Virginia.
- Pretty in Mink: Once Blondieís in the money, she starts wearing an array of furs.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Blondie kicks Danny out.Blondie:Thereís going to be a big change around here, and itís going to start tonight!Danny: Ohhh, big showdown.Blondie:Youíre right itís a showdown. Youíve been giving orders long enough. Now, youíre 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 Iím going to stop you, see? Stop you right in your tracks.Danny: I donít know what your beefing about. Who double crossed you?Blondie: You did! Thereís the powder you gave me. You didnít 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 Blondieís dresses are a classic example of this.
- Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Averted to the point that Blondieís friends ask her why she wonít give Danny a tumble when itís 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, Blondieís friend, played by Toshia Mori.
- Trouser Space: Blondie gets a pat down, and they find a gun near her nether regions.
- Unconventional Courtroom Tactics: 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.
- Women Are Wiser: Blondie is the whole brains of the operations, and uses her smarts to get ahead in the mob business.