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Film / Mandalay

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Don't Kick the Dog!
Mandalay is a 1934 dramatic film starring Kay Francis, Ricardo Cortez, and Lyle Talbot. It was directed by Michael Curtiz.

Tanya (Francis) is blindingly in love with Tony (Cortez), a sleazeball on the run. To get a shipment of guns paid, he literally sells Tanya into a brothel, and says "chin up."

At the brothel, Tanya loses more than illusions but learns to manipulate men and blackmails herself out of a dire life of prostitution. She embarks on a ship going close to Black Fever country, and on the month-long trip, she meets drunk Dr. Burton (Talbot) and love soon blooms between them. But all is destroyed when Tony sneaks onto the ship and tries to pick things up right where he left them. The problem is that Tanya hates Tony, and she's no longer the bright-eyed kid he left.


This film demonstrates the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Dr. Burton. Not a comical one either, as he neglects his Hippocratic oath by failing to help a feverish baby because he’s flat out drunk.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Averted. The film makes it exceedingly clear that Tanya should’ve dumped Tony a very long time ago.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tony is dead as a doornail (good riddance) but Tanya and Dr. Burton are going where the Black Fever is raging with no intention to come back alive.
  • Break the Cutie: Tanya is rather idealistic when we first meet her but that’s slowly destroyed as life as a prostitute only brings her misery.
    Nick: You can shriek in here for three weeks, and nobody will ever hear you. It was a question of you, or a cargo of guns. And you lost! I'm having your trunk sent to your room. From now on, this is your home!
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  • Chekhov's Gun: Tanya accidentally cuts herself. Dr. Burton lends her some iodine. Iodine taken internally in large doses is extremely toxic…
  • Defiled Forever: Averted. Dr. Burton doesn’t care that Tanya was formerly a prostitute.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Tanya takes the iodine and poisons Tony with it. The idea, in fact, came from Tony himself.
  • Faking the Dead: Tony fakes his suicide to make the authorities think he offed himself by drinking iodine and jumping out the ship’s window.
  • Impossibly-Low Neckline: As is with any film from the early thirties with Francis, there are bias cut gowns with amazingly low necklines.
  • Love Hurts: Especially when the gun racketeer you love sells you into slavery…
  • Lured into a Trap: Tanya goes to Rangoon with Tony because she thought she was going to have a night of fun...and he takes her to a brothel...and has her sing for the patrons. And then ditches her by leaving a note. Ouch.
  • Modesty Towel: Tony sneaks a peek at Tanya while she’s showering. The Precode element comes in when we see a shot of the towel falling down to her ankles when they're kissing.
  • Never Found the Body: Since they’re on a boat, they don’t really look for Tony’s body after his “suicide.” And even when Tanya does kill him, he conveniently falls out the window into the endless sea.
  • Nice Hat: Tanya wears the most fabulous hat to ever grace the silver screen.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Tanya is introduced twirling a lovely parasol on a hot day unawares of her imminent betrayal.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: This one takes the cake.
  • Sex Slave: Tanya is forced into this lifestyle when Tony sells her off for payment of guns. She becomes the infamous “Spot White.”
  • Would Hit a Girl: Nick slaps Tanya across the face. Granted, she called him a racial slur.
  • The Vamp: Tanya as “Spot White.” It works well enough that she can blackmail herself out of prostitution.


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