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I've Got Your Number

I've Got Your Number(1934)

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teaser I've Got Your Number (1934)

Originally produced under the title Hells Bells, the 1934 comedy I've Got Your Number was released in early 1934 as pressure mounted on Hollywood to adhere to the moral guidelines of the industry's Motion Picture Production Code. The film's star, Joan Blondell, had become a fixture in Pre-Code comedies at Warner Bros., particularly thanks to her racy 1930 film The Office Wife. Here she stars as Marie Lawson, a switchboard operator who loses her job thanks to a con job and winds up being set up again by the same crooks. Fortunately she has a romantic ally in Terry (Pat O'Brien), a repairman who uses his work savvy to find a way to keep her out of jail.

Many romantic comedies at the time were loaded with sexual innuendo, and this one was no exception as the film is crammed with nudging puns. In its original scripted form, the dialogue ran into trouble with the Production Code Administration thanks to its recurring fascination with characters being smacked on the rear end, a common ploy for laughs at the time. References to "fanny slapping" had to be dropped along with any onscreen "slap of the posterior," per the Code's verdict in a November, 1933 letter to the studio. Also censored were more suggestive lines about a "long telephone cord," shots of Blondell in sheer clothing "showing body contours," and the saucy line, "I meant to pat her on the shoulder - but she bent over." Though still cheeky in its final form, the film continued to run into trouble with censors elsewhere; Australia, one of the strictest English-speaking markets, even insisted on deleting "views of Joan Blondell rearranging pillows on a bed."

A prolific actress, Blondell worked with James Cagney seven times during their tenure together at Warner Bros. (whom she left in 1939). At the time of this film she was married to her first husband, cinematographer George Barnes; the union was a turbulent one and would end in 1936. The shooting of this film was complicated by Blondell's health issues, and according to Matthew Kennedy's biography, Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes, she suffered a bout of peritonitis brought on by private medical procedures near the end of filming.

By December of 1933, Blondell was bedridden and unable to shoot a final scene needed for the project at the studio, so the cast and crew came to film at her house instead. (See if you can spot the scene!) Jack Warner wound up placing her on temporary suspension, but her personal life was complicated further by hospitalization shortly afterwards and a severe house fire that destroyed the bulk of her personal belongings. Undaunted, Blondell carried on like a pro with four more films in 1934 including another Busby Berkeley musical, Dames, and the bizarre spousal abuse comedy Smarty.I've Got Your Number marked the second credited teaming of Blondell and actress Glenda Farrell after the 1933 comedy Havana Widows. Best known to audiences as the long-running intrepid reporter Torchy Blane, Farrell (who plays bubble-headed medium Bonnie) reunited with Blondell six more times including such films as Miss Pacific Fleet (1935) and their most popular pairing as two of the Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936). Along with the magic Farrell touch, the film also features an array of familiar supporting faces like Henry O'Neill, Louise Beavers, Allen Jenkins, and "Friar Tuck" himself, Eugene Pallette, who would go on to character actor immortality in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).

Though her pairing with Farrell is more famous, Blondell also went on to work with busy tough guy Pat O'Brien several more times as well after this first feature together. They appeared in two reporter-themed films, Back in Circulation (1937) and Off the Record (1939), though their strangest collaboration came years later when they both appeared in the oddball cult rock 'n' roll/spy comedy The Phynx (1970).

A successful release for Warner Bros., I've Got Your Number was praised by Variety as "a corking good comedy in its class" that "packs a bale of laughs." The studio was turning out farces like these at a rapid clip, and its disposable nature at the time is obvious in the appraisal that this is "one of those pictures they'll laugh at and promptly forget. But they'll laugh." Fortunately, they still do.

By Nathaniel Thompson

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