Other Pre-Code films get all the attention (I’m looking at you, Baby Face), but Girls About Town is just as risque (if not more so) as the rest, and far funnier. The story of two women (Kay Francis and Lilyan Tashman) who make a very good living entertaining wealthy businessmen for a friend and the man who convinces Francis to go straight, the George Cukor-directed film has it all: Clinging outfits (well hello Kay Francis’ breasts!). Suggestive dialogue. And the loving closeups of a young Joel McCrea that would turn him into something of an Art Deco fetish object for directors (and leading ladies).
What’s even more fascinating about the film is its stars: Tashman, who died three years later of cancer, and Francis, who was churning out up to a dozen films a year at the height of her celebrity and who wrote in a 1938 diary, “I can’t wait to be forgotten.” They both have, to a certain degree (though Francis benefits from having spent the biggest chunk of her career in Pre-Code films, today guaranteed an audience), but both are well worth rediscovering. An earlier film of Tashman’s, Millie (starring the equally forgotten Helen Twelvetrees), airs on TCM Jan. 9. And though Girls About Town is pretty unavailable, here’s a clip to whet your appetites.
(Oh, and here’s that young Joel McCrea I mentioned.)