Monday, December 01, 2008

Three on a Match

I read about this pre-Code film in this Girls, Meet Gotham article that came out about the same time the Sex and the City movie made its grand entrance. I was intrigued and put it on my Netflix and finally got around to watching it.

Because it was made in 1932 before Hollywood's morality police took over (imagine that--there was time when they were policing morality in Hollywood, Three on a Match flouts convention and gets away with it. It shows and alludes to people, (and more specifically women) doing things they shouldn't and they are not always punished. True, the woman in the trio who leaves her husband does come to a gruesome end, but if you look at her entire story, this goes against convention.

Of the three friends, two (Vivian and Ruth) were straight arrows, while the Mary, who hung upside down on the jungle gym showing boys her underpants, smoked cigarettes behind the school, and spent time in reform school, winds up married to a rich lawyer. (Mary gets the Vivian's lawyer husband after Vivian leaves him for a shiftless acquaintance of Mary's.)

The polar opposites, the good-girl-gone-bad Vivian and bad-girl-gone-good Mary, go through dramatic changes. Middling Ruth works hard in school, works hard at her job, and in the end gets to be a nanny to the child Vivian abandoned, while Mary becomes lady of the manor by marrying the husband that Vivian abandoned.

Vivian seems to be the one most punished because she shows signs of depression before running off. It is clear that she repressed her authentic self to follow the dictates of society and then went off the deep end when she couldn't take it anymore. Mary spent her early days, living life to the fullest and did suffer some. Her exuberance gets tempered, but she never loses her joi de vivre.

This goes against the cultural norm that says that it is better to sacrifice yourself. Mary sacrifices little and gains much in the end.

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