That’s News To Me: Big Brown Eyes (1936)

I was recently surprised to find, while perusing Criterion Collection’s Joan Bennett slate, there were actually TWO films I had not seen. And one had Cary Grant in it! I immediately settled in to watch Big Brown Eyes (1936).

Bennett plays Eve Fallon, a sassy manicurist in a hotel salon, whose boyfriend, Danny Barr (Grant), is a police detective. Eve hears a lot of conversation, which comes in handy when she quits her job and becomes a crusading reporter. Barr and one of Eve’s clients, private detective Richard Morey (Walter Pidgeon), are trying to find jewelry stolen from the wealthy Mrs. Cole (Marjorie Gateson, above left). When a baby is killed in the crossfire of a related dispute in Central Park, and those responsible go free, Eve and Danny go rogue to catch the killers.

More after the jump

It might seem a bit of a stretch for suave Cary Grant to portray a hardboiled cop, a role more suited to Humphrey Bogart, Glenn Ford, or even Barton MacLane (I’ve just seen a bunch of Torchy Blane films). But he does all right. He can’t hide his jaunty walk or unique accent, so he doesn’t even bother to try. I think he said “ain’t” once or twice, but it isn’t jarring. Joan Bennett is blonde here, not the brunette of later films, and as smart-mouthed as Jean Harlow ever was. The surprise was low-key Walter Pidgeon in a villainous role (not really a spoiler, the audience is put wise to him quite early on). He’s so off-handedly evil, it’s a little scary. Isabel Jewell, best known as Emmy Slattery in Gone with the Wind and the older sister in The Seventh Victim, and Lloyd Nolan are probably the most recognizable supporting cast.

Although BBE was released well after the production code went into effect in 1934, some of the dialogue and plot points wouldn’t be out of place pre-code. There’s even a sly reference to She Done Him Wrong (1933) in which Grant co-starred opposite Mae West. Director Raoul Walsh keeps a dialogue-packed script moving fast — it was based on not one but two short stories by James Edward Grant. It’s definitely worth checking out before it leaves Criterion Channel.

4 thoughts on “That’s News To Me: Big Brown Eyes (1936)

  1. This sounds fun. Good cast and a Cary Grant film I’ve never seen. Don’t have the Criterion Channel here in Scotland but will look around .

    1. It is fun, I hope you can find it. I checked YouTube, Internet Archive, etc. before posting and had no luck, but maybe BFI or similar. Thank you for stopping by!

    1. Thanks for reading! I think it’s on Criterion Channel through the end of February, unfortunately I haven’t found it anywhere else

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