Yet Another Reason to Love Joan Blondell

Joan secured a job in a circulating library at Broadway and Eighty-ninth for eight dollars a week. Her shift was typically 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., then again from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., which was perfect for attending midday auditions. Her boss, kindly Esther Wright, recalled that Joan “was a good clerk on account of she would not let boys have dates with her unless they joined [Esther’s] circulating library. One night there were seventeen boys lined up to join.” Joan wrote their numbers on the wall near the telephone behind the circulation desk, which eventually looked like a directory of Manhattan’s available young men.

from Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes, by Matthew Kennedy

I love her for her acting, her hard work, her stick-to-it-iveness, her ease in front of the camera, her comedy, and how long her career lasted.

But as a librarian’s daughter, as a girl who grew up in libraries, I love her the most for refusing to date boys unless they joined the library.

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6 Responses to Yet Another Reason to Love Joan Blondell

  1. KC says:

    I did not think I could love Joan Blondell more, but as I am also in love with the library, she has yet again bumped up in my affections. If Blondell has ever done anything despicable, I can’t help but think she had a darn good reason for it.

  2. sheila says:

    KC – I know, isn’t it such a wonderful anecdote?

  3. sheila says:

    I’m reading now about her first marriage to cinematographer George Barnes and it’s devastating stuff. What a dick. I need to go on a Joan Blondell tear – I’ve always loved her, but hearing the backstage stuff makes me love her even more.

  4. Lynne says:

    Hi Sheila – This number always just blows me away. I think it contains Joan Blondell’s finest moments on screen. And singer Etta Moten really adds a whole lotta soul. If you get bored around the middle during all the marching, take a closer look at all the wounded WWI soldiers and think what they went through. Some of the people on YouTube said it better than I can:
    – “They fought in ‘the war to end all wars’ and came back to poverty and despair.”
    – “First comes the war. When they come home, the world they knew is completely different. 10 years later, the depression. after the depression, comes ww2-which their kids fight in. After the second war is over, things become a little better-but they’re too old to enjoy it. And, during their final years, everyone hates them-because they’re supposedly all racist and sexist bigots. Not a good time to be born.”
    – “Joan Blondell really conveyed such heartfelt emotion that I can’t help but be moved by it. The singer is wonderful and her voice is so strong and powerful. I remembered seeing this movie years ago and was surprised by this downbeat ending. It’s as if the director knows that even though this movie is a comedy, the reality of life cannot be ignored.” (The preceding text is from one of my own blog posts in 2008. I was so happy to see your–more complete and wonderful–post.)

  5. sheila says:

    Lynne – wonderful context, thank you for copying out those comments. Gives me a lump in the throat. The struggles really were “forgotten” in the upheavals following, and some of the Code movies dealt with it openly and honestly. You’re right: the shots of the flanks of soldiers are gritty, seeming almost documentary-like. It’s not just their wounds … it’s the look in their faces. These are tough tough men, without self-pity – but it does take someone to say, “Look. Remember them.

    I love the moment when the one guy in the breadline passes a cigarette to the guy behind him. It’s played with zero sentimentality which is why it works so well.

    The human condition is in this song – and yes, Joan Blondell just knocks it out of the park here. Heartbreaking.

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