Last night Lauren and I, sick of being sick and trapped in the house, went out to Austin’s Paramount Theatre and saw the 9 o’clock showing of “Bombshell”.

The synopsis runs essentially like this: “Bombshell” film actress Lola Burns, a from the farm in Illinois to Hollywood starlet type who fickly hops from idea to idea: Marrying the tanned European marquis, adopting a baby, changing her Hollywood image. Naturally the studio’s publicity man and the studio head are none-too-keen on their bombshell becoming “a rubber nipple” and are thus dedicated to thwarting her ambitions and making sure she’s back for her make-up call.

Notably, this movie was pre-Code, so instead of smarmy pratfalls and fades to black, you get characters’ adult dialog being actually fit for adults ( implication of single motherhood, racy dialogue about underclothing, displays of drunkenness, etc. ).

It was stunning to both Lauren and I how different the expectations of movie viewers have become. These characters had absolutely no depth there was no empathy that I could have had for any of the characters. Rather, I thought this “talkie” to basically be like watching flesh-animated cartoons.

  • “Oh look Daffy’s doing blackface (now considered racist) stuff!”

  • “Oh look, they’re going to put the goldfish in the water pitcher!”

It was as if the idea of the character having a mental world wherewith the viewer could empathize, relate, or see their thought process was completely un-considered, like a cartoon.

Somewhat appallingly to the modern viewer, as the Lola’s character attempted to control her public image ( instead of being a slut, being a virgin, because that’s the only two choices a lady has, mind you ) and not be quite such a tool of the studio, the direction seems to prod you to the conclusion: “That silly platinum blonde dame, she lacks the gumption to stick to anything of import anyway, all the better the studio kept her from trying that!”

The subtext was very surprising to both of us.

Nevertheless, the pure absurdity, and that incredibly loud ( to add to the chaos ) soundtrack combined with the comedy of errors/manners/impaired mental function do bring together some absurd and farcical laughs ( especially when Lola is romanced by a Bostonian blue-blood whose spare time is occupied by writing “verse” )

Interestingly, the studio publicist, Lee Tracy had this tidbit of information at the imdb:

While in Mexico for location shooting for VIVA VILLA!, Tracy stepped out onto his hotel balcony and urinated on a passing military parade. He was immediately arrested and deported from the country. Embarrassed & furious, Louis B. Mayer fired him instantly from MGM.