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Film / Min and Bill

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Min and Bill is a 1930 film starring Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery, directed by George W. Hill.

Min is a tough old lady who keeps an inn by the docks. Her friend Bill is a commercial fisherman who often stays at Min's boarding house when he's in port. Min is guardian to a teenaged girl, Nancy, who was left at the boarding house by her horrible alcoholic mother Bella when Nancy was only six months old. Now Nancy is growing up, and Min must make some hard choices about whether or not to keep her living in a boarding house by the docks, surrounded by drunken sailors and other disreputable characters. The situation is further complicated by the return of Bella after an absence of many years.

Min and Bill was a massive success for MGM. Dressler, who was sixty years old and had made her film debut back in 1914 but had mostly performed on the stage, won the Academy Award for Best Actress and enjoyed an unlikely stardom in a series of hits before cancer killed her in 1934. Beery became the highest-paid actor at MGM after the success of Min and Bill and was an A-lister for the rest of The '30s.

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Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic / Lady Drunk / Really Gets Around: Bella, Nancy's booze-swilling, slutty, hateful biological mother.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A rage-filled Bella says in no uncertain terms that she's going to get money from Nancy and her new rich husband, or she'll destroy the marriage. Min then proceeds to shoot her. Bill begs her to get on his boat so he can take her to Mexico, but she lingers to watch the wedding yacht leave with Nancy aboard. The cops show up to arrest Min for murder, and she leaves with a smile on her face.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Nancy and Bella come back on the same boat.
  • Department of Child Disservices: They show up and are skeptical of an inn/saloon as a place to raise a teenaged girl, especially since Nancy isn't even going to school. Min is scared that they'll take Nancy away, but eventually decides that they're right and sends Nancy away herself.
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  • Doorstop Baby: In the backstory. Years ago a drunken Bella left her six-month-old daughter at Min's saloon, and Min has been raising her ever since.
  • Driving a Desk: Boating a desk, as Min and Nancy accidentally start up a motorboat that they don't know how to operate.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Bill sails his boat into port and unloads his catch, then meets Min, and sells her a bottle of illegal hooch. This establishes Min and Bill as friends and as salt-of-the-earth working class types.
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: Bella comes back after an absence of many years and, after figuring out that the girl marrying the rich guy is her daughter Nancy, decides that she will intrude on her daughter's life and get paid, or make her daughter suffer the consequences. Min takes decisive action to stop her.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: A knockdown brawl takes place between Min and Bill after she catches him flirting with Bella. It ends with Min breaking a bottle over Bill's head.
    Bill: Now I'm mad.
  • Happily Adopted: Min loves Nancy.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Min says "When I was young I used to make them sizzle." Bill rather ungentlemanly asks if that was back in Civil War days.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: Working-class people who live by the docks.
  • Name and Name: Something of an odd example, since Bill is actually a secondary character and the main story is Min's relationship with Nancy.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Min and Bill are old and dear friends.
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