Thursday, February 16, 2012

Flirtation Walk, Hawaii, Escape and Gettin' No Respect

I’m just going to preface this by saying that this is going to be a very strange post.

Flirtation Walk (1934) arrived to me as a rental from ClassicFlix. While I have an ordered queue on ClassicFlix, I often forget what I put on there or the next title shipped to me is something much further down the list. So when Flirtation Walk had arrived, it was a surprise as most ClassicFlix rentals are. I had some free time on Sunday, which is a rare thing these days, so I popped the DVD player into our BluRay player. The player has been having issues and it’s been displaying diva-like behavior. It likes some DVDs and BluRays and dislikes other. It angrily spins Ocean’s 11 (1960) making a weird buzzing noise of discontent. This makes me want to kick it because gosh darn it I need to watch Ocean’s 11 sometimes! The player seemed to like Flirtation Walk so I called a temporary truce.

I must have chosen Flirtation Walk because it’s one of the 16 films Ruby Keeler made, and I just love me some Ruby Keeler no matter what you haters say. It also has Dick Powell and the added surprise bonus of Ross Alexander, the tragic actor who never saw a long life or a successful Hollywood caree. Dick Powell plays Dickie Boy Dorcy, a private in the army who gets pushed around by Sgt. "Scrapper" Thornhill (Pat O’Brien) while they are stationed in Hawaii. What makes matters worse is that Dorcy has been assigned to escort Kathleen Fitts (Ruby Keeler) the daughter of a general who happens to be engaged to someone in the army (of higher rank than Dorcy of course). When Dorcy isn’t being pushed around by Scrapper he’s being pushed around by Kathleen. He can’t get no respect! I can sympathize with him. I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t feel disrespected by someone. Maybe I’m too paranoid or sensitive or maybe I just have “pushover” stamped permanently on my forehead. Who knows? Anyways, I know what Dorcy feels like and I don’t blame him when he packs up his things, heads to West Point Military Academy to make something of himself.

Private Dorcy and Kathleen (“Kit” Fitts, wow what a name) have a private little rendezvous while in Hawaii. She forces him to take a detour while they are on their way to a party. They stop to watch some native Hawaiians dance and sing. Of course Dorcy is asked to sing because heck he’s being played by Dick Powell. A 1930s Dick Powell must sing! This scene was interesting for a few reasons. Kathleen shows Dorcy utter disrespect by forcing him to take her there, forcing him to sing and forcing him to lay down with her for a romantic moment together, even though she knows all of this will get him in trouble. Disrespect! (Also a curious gender role reversal that becomes very important later in the film). Another interesting point about this scene was the Hawaiian hula dance. So very different from a contemporary depiction of Hawaiians performing for tourists, these Hawaiians sang in their native tongue, most didn't speak English and they were performing for themselves (at least they thought they were until they discovered Kathleen and Dorcy were watching).  Now I know little to nothing about the history of Hawaii but I started to compare this scene with a contemporary movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008). I know what you are thinking. I've gone off the deep end. But I assure you I haven't. Sometimes I like to watch contemporary comedies and that's okay! The Hawaii in Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a touristy haven, the locals may know a few words of Hawaiian, but don’t speak it fluently, and a few of the locals in the movie have come to Hawaii to escape something in their lives (whether it’s a desk job, an old life, a rough neighborhood, etc.) and the tourists escape there for a vacation or as is the case for the main character, to forget about Sarah Marshall. In a way, both films, while depicting different Hawaiis, are both about escaping.

So what the heck is my point? Sometimes a film comes into your life at the very exact moment you need it. Flirtation Walk is NOT a great film. It’s a film with several enjoyable parts and the kind of disappointing gender fix that's so common in films from that era. But for some reason, it came to me at a time in my life when I desperately need respect (like Dorcy does) and I desperately need an escape (like Dorcy and all the characters in Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Sometimes you realize that your soul needs something to speak to it and you chose a film for that purpose. Other times that film finds you.

Has a film ever come to you at a time you most needed it to? Do you ever watch specific films out of emotional need or for comfort?

Flirtation Walk (1934) is available on DVD from Warner Archive and for rent and sale on ClassicFlix!


  1. What a fun post! So glad Dick and Ruby arrived at just the right time. I enjoyed this one too.

    I definitely watch movies at times according to my mood -- for instance, when I'm ill I tend to find myself reaching for the comforting films from my childhood like musicals. When I had an ear infection a couple years ago it led to a week-long Fred Astaire Festival! :)

    Best wishes,

  2. Laura - I'm not surprised you've seen this one too! Thanks for your comment. That's very interesting that you find comfort in watching musicals! My go-to comfort movies seem to be comedies, movies set in Boston and fun detective films.

  3. FLIRTATION WALK isn't a great film, but I did enjoy watching this one. Like you mentioned, it has enjoyable parts.

    Sometimes I'll watch GRUMPY OLD MEN with Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau because it reminds me of my grandparents - especially seeing that I had watched it with them on VHS. Or the first time I saw MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, it made me sentimental for my grandparents.

    For a fun mood sometimes I'll pop in some of the early Disney films (both live action and animated) or Laurel and Hardy films because they bring back childhood memories.

  4. ACK!i have yet to see this one! tho i am not a "fan" of Ruby keeler per se'. i am certainly not a hater either. at the end of the day she is in some of the greatest musicals ever made at the greatest studio of them all and there isnt a single thing in those films i would change!

    i had to think about your question for a bit...yeah i think i do pop in certain films for very specific reasons sometimes, like Shawshank Redemption when i need to remember that HOPE is a good thing! and Vertigo when for some odd reason i desire to be emotionally obliterated, lol! or the Fountainhead to remind myself to be true to my ideals, King Kong or Angels with Dirty Faces when i need to feel like a kid again. stuf like that

    Another film that devastates me emotionally is Kirk Douglas' "Lonely are the Brave"...there is no other character in all the films I've seen in my entire life that i connect with and relate to more than his in that film so i dont watch it very often, its just hits too close to home, but sometimes i need to at least have the notion that i am not the only person that feels like they are out of step with the times and feeling like human individuality is becoming a forgotten concept. i listen to his character and i just "understand" what he's feeling completely. have you ever seen it Quelle?

  5. Hi Raquelle, just a postscript to say that I watched SHIPMATES FOREVER tonight. It was released the year after FLIRTATION WALK and basically the cast and production team moved from West Point to Annapolis. Thought SHIPMATES FOREVER had a stronger storyline -- really liked it. Thought I'd mention in case it's one you haven't seen yet!

    Best wishes,

  6. Robby - I have a soft spot for old folks and Make Way for Tomorrow makes me cry buckets of tears. I haven't seen Grumpy Old Men in many years but it might be time for a re-view. L&H are great for some laughs!

    Paulie - I have not seen Shawshank Redemption! I know, terrible right? And now that I've seen your classic film museum, I understand why you mentioned Fountainhead given your collection of Ayn Rand books. I haven't seen Lonely are the Brave but I think you have mentioned to me before. I'll have to make sure it's on my list.

    Laura - Thanks for the heads up! I'll have to watch that one.

  7. no worries Quelle, too many movies, not enough time, i totally understand!! i havent seen any of the LOTR, any of the Harry Potter films, and didnt see Avatar until new years day 2012! BUT what i did find was a vhs tape of mine with Flirtation Walk on it, taped off TCM probly 10 years ago or more haha so I put it out for viewing in the near future :D

    i know you like Kirk Douglas and i'm sure you would enjoy that film, even tho it is quite an intense experience. i'm secure enough in my masculinity to also say that imo, Douglas was never more handsome or charismatic onscreen. that guy had star power to spare that's for sure. when you do finally get to see it please let me know, i would love to know your opinion of it! oh waitl i can just wear my Warren William mind reading turban and find out for myself tee hee ;)


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