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29 June 2011 @ 03:27 am
Bette Davis Marathon 2011: Movie #3--Hell's House (1932) PART TWO  
Now let's see. Where were we? Oh yes. HELL'S HOUSE.

So off the little malefactors trundle to explore their new home, which I'm sure will be just peachy. Or, you know, a room with never-ending rows of bunk beds. Jimmy is assigned his new berth - an upper one, it should be noted - and proceeds to sit on the lower one as he changes into his 'monkey suit'. I sense an imminent clash that will either result in lifelong enmity or livelong friendship in the very near future. For a change fulfilling my prophecy within seconds instead of taking dreary minutes, the movie introduces us to a thrilling new character - with a voice more nasal and whiny even than Jimmy's! And I thought things couldn't get any worse. Jimmy's bunkmate advises him to get his things and scram up where he belongs.

Jimmy objects to this perfectly reasonable, although not particularly politely worded, request and a scuffle ensues. When a guard/warden/whatever comes over to see what all the 'ruckus' is about (he actually used the word 'ruckus', and I love him for it), Jimmy, true to form, doesn't rat his adversary out but rather uses the oldest abuse cover-up in the book: 'Aw, I just slipped and fell.' This certainly bodes well for his future relationships.

But his refusal to blab has impressed his onetime foe. 'Okay, big boy,' he announces, not-at-all-weirdly, 'you can sit down here anytime you want to.' Aw bless. I think Jimmy has made a real, vaguely homoerotic friend. And so Jimmy smirks, says 'K.O.', which I still don't really understand, and puts all his shit back on the lower bunk. As he changes, he starts yammering to the other kid about how he won't be inside very long because of his powerful buddy Mr. Kelly. But, to his dismay, he won't be able to contact him through the three letters a month he's allowed, since the officials read all outgoing messages. Ruh-roh. Then, to make matters even worse, there's a noise that I swore was the shriek of a steam-valve or something but Jimmy's new BFF, 'Shorty' (Frank Coughlin Jr., a child actor who had minor roles in The Public Enemy and Gone with the Wind), informs us otherwise. It's the shriek of a child being horribly abused for 'not profiting by his experience'. Oh. Well, they had to put the 'hell' in Hell's House at some point, I suppose. Jimmy asks a series of rather leading questions, including: 'What's it like up here?' 'Well, how do they treat you?' (USE YOUR POWERS OF INFERENCE FOR ONCE, FOR GOD'S SAKE. YOU JUST HEARD A CHILD SCREAM. WHAT DO YOU THINK?) Shorty gives us a rundown of a few of the horrors of the institution - terrible food, forced child labour in the brickyard to fill gaps in funding, harsh punishments, and so on and so forth. Shorty gleefully informs Jimmy that he has a heart condition that prevents him from getting the worst of things. Well, Shorty, I think you'll definitely survive the movie and have a long, healthy life. And, Jimmy, when the kid who's going to die soon says he's 'lucky', that's probably a pretty good indicator that you are in a ludicrously unpleasant place. Do not respond with optimism. Oh thank god. The scene faded out on Jimmy continuing to undress with a look of utter despair on his woeful mug. Perhaps his ability to process information is improving already. I can dream, can't I?

Then, apropos of nothing:

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHAT? I'm desperate to know! Oh, I see - this is just a really terrible device to reintroduce Frank Gebhart to the film. Remember him? One of the people Kelly pretends he knows? Well, he's invited the superintendent to his office to try to coerce him into letting the Truth about how the 'school' operates be revealed to the general public, who will surely rise in indignation and then things will be better funded and the children will be happy. While he is doing this, he is gesticulating in a manner that looks like he's stroking Supt. Thompson on the lapel. Oh, will the homoeroticism of this movie never cease? Anyway, Thompson is reluctant because any sort of exposé will result in him losing his job, which is a prospect he's none too keen on, but Gebhart tries desperately to appeal to his better nature. The crusading newspaperman reveals that he will arrive 'unexpectedly' at the school on Thursday with a pass; the super needn't do anything, except allow Gebhart to see conditions as they really are, not the sanitised version put on display during proper official visits. Thompson finally kinda sorta half-heartedly agrees to this scheme.

Meanwhile, back at Hell's House... Jimmy, in a ridiculous expository device that happens far too often, has his number scrawled in pencil on a type-written list. Because, obviously, we won't be able to pick out 13144 unless it's really, really obvious. It's a wonder they didn't skywrite it, or have it on a flashing neon sign under the list proper. Also, maybe the reason they keep forgetting to put Jimmy's number on the list is that they seem to have assigned them in no particular order (i.e. not relating to the time of arrival at the 'School') and have typed them totally at random. Administrative fail. Anyway, it's off to the brickyard with our intrepid hero. What whimsical adventures will befall him there, I wonder? The brickyard's a curious place, because there's a shot of kilns that would seem to indicate brick production taking place, but that doesn't seem to be anyone's job. Nope, everybody just stacks bricks. Into HUGE piles. I don't think they ever unstack the bricks, either. They just materialise from the kilns and are stacked. I'm not sure how money is made from this endeavour, but there you go. Anyway, Shorty educates Jimmy in the fascinating art of brick stacking. How long has it been since we last saw Bette Davis? Could we have an update on her condition, like, really, really soon? Jimmy says and does stupid things in an aggravating manner. What else is new? And 'Okay, big boy' is now a catchphrase. Terrific. Just... terrific. Off Shorty goes to get more bricks to inexplicably add to this giant mountain of bricks. By his mere absence, he has unwittingly thrown the world's stupidest person to the wolves. Who should be working next to Jimmy but the vaguely ethnic boy who (correctly) thought Jimmy was totally full of it at his trial-type-thingie! Oh dear. 'SAY!' he says, really really angrily. 'Ain't you the guy with the connections?' I get the feeling Jimmy's endless naïveté is about to be exploited. Yet again. OH MY GOD. I just figured out who this irrationally angry kid reminds me of: a young version of Paul Muni's character in Bordertown. Everything totally makes sense now. Well, at least that does. The supervisor has his back turned, so Jimmy's gonna get hazed. Basically, to cut a long story short, under the pretence of teaching him a more expedient method of pointlessly stacking bricks, Angry Possibly Ethnic Boy and a couple of cohorts overload Jimmy with bricks and then pants him.

Oh Jimmy. You fail so hard at life. So. Hard. And all the other boys laughed mercilessly. Until Shorty came back and yelled at them, with the convincing argument that 'you can't do that to him! He's my pal!' Oh well, in that case... A fight breaks out, naturally. This is, after all, a place populated entirely by fourteen-year-old boys. After a couple of nano-seconds of feeble punches, a passing guard breaks things up and informs them that, because of this 'monkey business' - I kid you not, 'monkey business' - they don't get their recreation period. I just want to know where on earth they got these guards. Who wants to bet that one of them uses 'shenanigans' next?

In case you were wondering what Uncle Henry and Auntie Em were up to, we now get a quick update. Mostly, they're just sad that Jimmy has suddenly and inexplicably ended up in a juvenile detention facility. Why they can't be proactive and investigate for themselves, I don't know, but they seem to have decided that leaving everything to Mr. Kelly is the best course of action and, well, if he says he's done everything he can for Jimmy, then there's nothing more that can be done for Jimmy, so it's best just sit at home and moan about how awful it all is. Wow. Way to be outrageously unhelpful, you guys. And they're relying on Mr. Kelly's 'connections' to get a pass to go up and visit their incarcerated nephew. Well, good luck with that, you guys.

OH MY GOD. SHE'S BACK. HALLE-FUCKING-LUJAH. We are abruptly and thankfully returned to Peggy's apartment, where she rushes to the door to admit her beau Kelly. Immediately and unaccountably, he starts mussing her hair with alarming vigour. He is like a man possessed - and in remarkably high spirits considering that, oh, I don't know, a hopelessly stupid but completely innocent youth is living in deeply unpleasant conditions because he doesn't have the courage of his bootlegging convictions, as it were. 'Aw, stop it! What's the matter with you?' Bette says, speaking for all of us.

Peggy promptly brings the mood down by bringing up Jimmy. Kelly has decided that the best way to avoid Bette Davis (even in this nebulous form) kicking his ass is to pretend that Jimmy has just randomly disappeared off the face of the planet. Because Peggy is but a weak and feeble woman she obviously can't go out looking their young friend herself - if she did, though, you bet she'd take on the juvenile penal system single-handed and WIN - so she, like Uncle Henry and Auntie Em, must take Kelly's word that he's looked everywhere and done everything he can. So Jimmy is essentially fucked. Unless, perhaps, Peggy's incessant fretting triggers a fit of conscience from her thoroughly exasperating boyfriend...

In trying to get a good Concerned Peggy shot, Kelly wound up looking like a distraught turtle. I considered going back and trying to get a more flattering angle on Pat O'Brien, but you know what? La Davis is the priority. If she looks good, everyone else is just going to have to deal. So there. Anyway, Kelly manages to distract Peggy from continuing her line of inquiry about the whereabouts of Jimmy by asking her out on the town. But, as she leaves to go get changed, he walks over to a handy mirrors, appraises his reflection and announces: 'What a heel you are, Kelly.' True that.

But don't just SAY it - DO something about it. Otherwise this movie will NEVER END.

We now return to the thrilling exploits of Jimmy and Shorty, who appear to be planning to smuggle a message to Kelly out of Hell's House. Shorty keeps watch, while Jimmy attempts to write a letter in the dark. The scheme sounds like a risky one: sickly Shorty has a connection at the prison doctor's office, who he'll give the unsigned, unaddressed letter to after feigning illness - and tell the address to, of course. Otherwise, this would be a really stupid plan. The two lads have also pledged to stick together no matter what. Oh dear. The next morning, Shorty goes to the doctor, letter in his jacket. Some fellow inmates tell the doctor of their wacky mishaps, like swallowing moveable type. Har har. Something tells me that this is just an awkward mood-lightener before something awful happens. The waiting room and the examination room are one and the same, which is a rather awkward setup, and means that Laundry Boy (aka Shorty's connection - though how Shorty knows this kid is going to be pushing laundry through the doctor's office at a specific time is beyond me) refuses to take the letter, for fear of the doctor noticing. Presumably this method of leaking messages has been tried before - although it appears to have resulted in fuck-all being done to help anybody - so why is this kid coming over all skittish NOW? Oh, right. Plot. I guess. Such as it is. Anyway, this really sucks, since now poor feeble Shorty is stuck with the inflammatory letter, which presumably has not very flattering things about the institution written in it. Oh! But he can just hide it in his jacket and return to Jimmy with the disappointing news. The doctor calls Shorty up and it's revealed that Laundry Boy was just being a dick because there's no way anyone with any authority could have seen the transaction: the doctor had his back to them the whole time. Damn you, Laundry Boy! Shorty, disappointed, asks for his heart medication, failing to realise that the doctor is going to want to listen to the organ in question before forking over any pills and that, in so doing, the letter will be revealed. Well, shit.

And so, Shorty is undone. An investigation ensues, handwriting is sampled but because Shorty insists the letter is his work, regardless of the all the evidence disproving this assertion, he alone receives the punishment: a stint in Hell's House's brutal solitary confinement. OMG IT'S A PARALLEL TO WHAT JIMMY DID FOR KELLY EARLIER. This is a bloody masterstroke of screenwriting. Thus begins the suffering of St Shorty (not officially recognised by the Catholic Church).

Despite the fact that this film is supposed to be a 'gritty exposé' of the juvenile detention system, fully revealing all the horrors therein, it's never really clear what exactly happens to Shorty in solitary that causes his fragile health to (inevitably) enter a tailspin. As far as I can tell, he's by himself in a cell and you can infer that maybe he's not getting adequate food/water/medical care, but with the very in-your-face nature of the rest of the plot, I was expecting him to be a lot more flagrantly mistreated, because, frankly, this doesn't seem to be an awful lot more cardiac-unfriendly than hauling a cart full of bricks around all day like he was doing before.

Jimmy, on the other hand, is living the high life. Out of the blue, he is approached in the brickyard - they're still stacking bricks, god knows why, but they are - and asked if he'd like to become a 'monitor'. He hems and haws and fusses with his pile of bricks...

and finally agrees when he is told of the wonderful, idyllic world of the monitors. It's pretty cushy, with greatly improved living conditions and 'special privileges'. I don't know how the hell goddamn JIMMY got recommended for a position that involves anything above the bare minimum of brain function except as some sort of terrible, terrible joke, but plot's gotta move somehow. Also, how long has Jimmy BEEN at Hell's House? I really can't gauge that at all. AND (since we're talking of plot holes) why isn't Jimmy at all concerned that his BFF with the heart condition has SUDDENLY DISAPPEARED AFTER VISITING THE DOCTOR? Or is this even the same day? But the shot of Shorty languishing in his cell's Celestial Light of Suffering seemed to me to imply that some time had passed. ARGH THIS MOVIE. Why can't it just end? Unlike the film, the day's work has ended, and as Jimmy goes to collect his tin cup from the dormitory so he can move into his new luxury accommodations, he notices that Shorty isn't there. So I guess it was the same day after all. Well, that's that solved. His roomies, seeing his 'MONITOR' armband, refuse to give him any information about his missing friend. Jimmy is chagrined.

We're now taken to the 'Correction Room', where misbehaving boys who apparently haven't been quite bad enough to be doomed to the vague horrors of solitary confinement are made to either stand on a line or sit on a bench and stare at a line on a chalkboard for hours at a time. Jimmy's new role as monitor means that he'll be supervising this punishment, which is actually a legitimately terrible one, but still doesn't quite warrant the horrible shrieks we heard on Jimmy's first night in the clink.

This array looks like something that didn't make the final cut in the world's worst production of Oliver Twist. In blunders Jimmy, who is supposed to watch over his peers, making sure they don't nod off, break formation, etc. using some sort of baton to reprimand them. The guard guy says, 'You're the new monitor, ain't ya?' and shakes his head sadly as he walks away. I'm not totally sure what the movie wants us to take away from this exchange, but I'm going to assume that it has something to do with what a doofus Jimmy is. Why ever not? Soft-hearted chap that he is, our hero is obviously distressed that he's profiting from the misery of his former comrades - and presumably wondering what ever happened to Shorty. To illustrate this angst, we cut between shots of the suffering inmates and Jimmy clutching his baton, looking like he's going to be extremely ill. The punishment is really pretty harrowing, and the shot panning along the boys' faces is actually rather effective. If only Jimmy just didn't exist - but I guess the audience must have a proxy presence onscreen and, nauseating though the prospect is, Jimmy is, for the moment, us. Oh, and these are quite possibly the least convincing 'shadows' I've ever seen.

One of the poor lads collapses from exhaustion and Jimmy, irritatingly slowly, goes to fetch a guard. I think he's supposed to be so stricken by what he has just seen that he can't react properly, but because Junior Durkin can't act, it just comes across as still more dumbassery from our least favourite dumbass.

About three thousand years ago, you may or may not remember, Gebhardt the renowned newspaperman of some sort arranged with the superintendent to have a 'warts and all' visit to the State School, once and for all putting an end to the terrible abuses perpetrated there, which the super is, for some reason, utterly powerless to even attempt to stop. Well, that day has apparently arrived. As soon as Gebhardt arrives, though, he gets an inkling that his friend has chickened out - the super isn't 'in', so the captain of the guard (I'm guessing?) will be taking him around instead. This is the scene that greets the roving reporter/editor/magnate in the Correction Room:

Um, yeah, I'm calling some bullshit here. The message of Hell's House is, essentially, that pretty much everybody is ineffectual and cowardly, unless they're stupid, a journalist or Bette Davis - and even Bette Davis it's not too sure about. Cheery stuff. Anyway, the guard tells Gebhardt that errant boys must stay in this room and study during a recreation period, a statement made less convincing by the fact that someone - I'm just going to assume it's Jimmy - forgot to get rid of the line on the floor. Obviously thrown, the guard admits that a boy who persists in bad behaviour is occasionally made to 'toe the line' - while he studies. Gebhardt continues with his tour despite his realisation that he's not getting the 'real' story like he'd hoped and is instead going to be fobbed off with a series of ridiculous lies. He is shown a 'punishment cell' far cushier than the one that Shorty is rapidly deteriorating in RIGHT NEXT DOOR and finally has had enough of this malarky. After berating the superintendent, he leaves, despairing that he will never have the ammunition to end these cruel and unusual punishments. Ah, but wait! Jimmy, while engaged in his monitorial duties, brings water to an inmate being confined in solitary - and, in a shocking twist, IT'S SHORTY! Finding his friend unresponsive, Jimmy, with unprecedented competence, calls for a guard, who apparently hasn't checked on his charge particularly recently. The guard dashes off for help, while Jimmy cradles Shorty's head on his lap and gives him water. Awwww.

How bromantic. Oh, but the clichés don't stop there! Shorty, deliriously believing Jimmy to be his mother, reveals that the letter to Mr Kelly was intercepted and that his steadfast loyalty to his friend is the cause of this maltreatment. Emerging from his cardiac-induced hallucinations seconds later - it is utterly unclear what exactly is wrong with him - he is thrilled to find his pal is with him.

On learning that this whole ordeal has been completely his fault, Jimmy becomes so overwrought I could kill him. Really. The levels of bad/obnoxious acting here are almost beyond belief. Surely it can't go on too much longer. SURELY. Shorty implores Jimmy not to confess that he wrote the letter - they'll still punish Shorty because he wouldn't tell, and then Jimmy will be in solitary too, which would make him even less useful (if such a thing is possible). At this, our hero decides he'll run away and tell Mr. Kelly of Shorty's plight personally - then Shorty will surely be given access to proper medical care. OH MY GOD. WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE, YOU DOLT?! My loathing for this character knows no bounds. Before slipping back into his fever(?)-induced madness, Shorty promises to hang on until Captain Idiot affects his rescue. ... Well, good luck with that. It's rather touching that, despite all evidence to the contrary, someone still has faith in Jimmy's capacity not to fuck things up.

JUST KISS HIS FOREHEAD ALREADY. You know you want to. And so the guards come in and take Shorty away on a stretcher, with their leader issuing the confounding statement: 'Take him to the hospital. The doctor'll be right over.' So wait. Is the doctor coming to the jail where the patient no longer is? Or is the hospital the sort of hospital where there is not automatically a whole shitload of medical professionals and so one must be specially sent for? Either way, Jimmy is forbidden from accompanying his friend to whatever sort of medical facility they've cooked up, and subsequently has a meltdown, telling the guard exactly what he thinks of this - this - this Hell's House! Okay, he doesn't actually drop the title, but I wish someone would. It seems a dreadful waste to call the movie something as dramatic as Hell's House and then have no one take advantage of the fact. Ah well, there's still hope. I suppose.

An indeterminate amount of time later, we see Jimmy's number being pencilled in on yet another typewritten list, this one announcing that he has, for no readily apparent reason, been moved to kitchen detail. I would think that 13144 is at least irritating enough to be memorable, but apparently not. Yet another example of the epic failure that is Jimmy. Also, it seems that our nasal hero-type-thing has been demoted from his monitorial post since last we met, probably because everyone else is as sick of him as I am. So he's putting cans of rubbish in the back of a truck and being treated shabbily by the new monitor, who has an absurdly deep voice. Oh the poor dear. But I think there are far more pressing issues to be dealt with. For example, WHERE IN GOD'S NAME IS BETTE DAVIS?! Well, I know that she turns up at least once more before this damn movie is over and I don't think that blessed event is terribly far off, so there is hope. I just need to keep telling myself that. Anyroad, in their infinite cruelty, the other lads bugger off to have supper, leaving Jimmy to clean up rotten lettuce. And by 'clean up rotten lettuce', I mean hide in a bin and thus escape the institution. AT LAST. The film finally, finally appears to be lurching awkwardly toward some sort of climax.

And now, a totally superfluous sequence of the authorities realising that they are short one delinquent and using a steam whistle to announce the fact. This movie just can't help itself: every time it looks like there's a chance to generate some momentum, it comes up with some infuriating method of slowing things up. Damn you, Hell's House, damn you! Just to make matters worse, the movie decides to tease me with 'James Mason' again, this time via a newspaper article. Have I mentioned that I really dislike it when they do that? It gives me such false hope. Distracting me momentarily from my outrage, the plot decides to progress! ZOMG! Jimmy bursts in on Auntie Em and Uncle Henry (who is obsessively rereading an article about his nephew's escape) and demands to see Mr Kelly. The erstwhile lodger has, however, moved out of the Clark household; what to do?

Jimmy's in a right state, frantically reiterating his need to find Mr Kelly so that he can save Shorty. His relatives have no idea what he's on about - a feeling they must surely be used to - but help him get cleaned up nonetheless. Where do you suppose Jimmy goes to find Kelly? That's right. TO PEGGY'S! HURRAH!

Peggy is absolutely dumbfounded to see our hero at her door - in a pleased kind of way. Bizarrely, even though every single time we've seen him since Jimmy's arrest he's been consumed by guilt and self-loathing, Kelly greets Jimmy with a glib non sequitur: 'Well, well, well, how's the weather in China?' What the actual fuck?

Kelly's still acting like he had no idea where Jimmy was this whole time, but as the lad explains his plight, the penny starts to drop for our Peggy. And she gets a closeup!

When she figures out that this whole mess is more likely than not Kelly's fault, she is not happy.

Jimmy is still in a right tizzy as he babbles frenetically of Shorty's desperate plight and how much everyone would love Shorty and how swell he is and how much of a hurry he's in and FOR GOD'S SAKE SHUT UP.

Don't worry about having to go back to Hell's House, Jimmy. Clearly, you aren't going back. Because Bette Davis has spoken. And she says: 'You're not goin' back.' And since Peggy's such a sassy dame - well, as far as we've been able to see and as far as her ridiculously limited character will allow - we know she means it.

Yeah, he's not going back. Kelly looks amusingly terrified. He knows his ass is about to be kicked by La Davis if he doesn't come through for Jimmy.

Spotting a copy of the newspaper, he determines that he must go see Frank Gebhardt - you remember, the crusading reporter/editor/journalist-type who turned up a couple of times ages and ages and ages ago. Peggy, sensing (probably accurately) that if she lets Kelly just gallivant off to meet Gebhardt by himself they'll never see him again, insists that he arrange an appointment by phone first. Kelly, not wishing to be killed, agrees with this idea and heads for the phone. Then Peggy, sensing (definitely accurately) that if she lets Kelly run this call on his own he'll just bullshit them, insists that she do the dialling. Although how and why she knows Gebhardt's number by memory is a total mystery to me.

Kelly is sweating bullets at this point. His gal is not a one-dimensional moll to be trifled with, after all. He decides to bluster his way into an appointment by mentioning that he's got a scoop on the state reform school, making sure not to let Jimmy and Peggy know that he and Gebhardt don't actually know each other at all, and whaddaya know, it works! Even Peggy looks impressed, giving him a soon-to-be-trademark wide-eyed look. Seriously, this is Davis 101.

Why am I screencapping this so excessively? Because this movie is melting my brain, and I'm so happy when Bette Davis is just on the screen at this point that I want to celebrate those moments and prolong them as much as possible. Hell's House is beyond excruciating.

Meanwhile, back at the Clark apartment, Uncle Henry and Auntie Em are being kind of menaced by police who are seeking Jimmy. You'd think the institution would be glad to be rid of the doofus, but there you are. They're gluttons for punishment, apparently. Em blabs that the runaway lad was looking for Mr. Kelly, their ex-boarder, but no one has even the vaguest notion where Kelly might be, which the fuzz deem a believable story. However, the not-that-scary cops inform Jimmy's aunt and uncle that, should the boy return, they must phone police headquarters. Fair enough. As they leave the Clarks, through the ingenious tactic of asking the cop on the beat, the authorities are potentially set on Kelly's tail. Oh no! Well, sort of. Kelly, Peggy and Jimmy have already made it to the newspaper office, where they are waiting to see Gebhardt. Peggy has gotten quite gussied up for the occasion, for reasons that are far from clear to me.

Oh well. At least Bette's still here. She may not be actually doing anything, but she's here. Kelly is summoned into Gebhardt's office and, once out of his infinitesimal fan club's earshot, he begins to explain himself. He tells the crusading newspaperman of Jimmy's plight, and that his bringing the escaped delinquent to the papers is an unselfish act. Just look how sincere he is!

This is obviously deeply serious business. And so Jimmy is at last brought in to tell his harrowing tale. DOES THIS MEAN THE MOVIE CAN END SOON?!

Everyone listens, spellbound, brows furrowed. The secretary starts CRYING, which seems to me to be overselling Jimmy's capabilities as an institutional cruelty raconteur by quite a bit.

I mean, really. At this point, the telegraph desk phones Gebhardt with the news that a kid with heart trouble has died up at the reform school. No points for guessing who. Frank - I guess we're entitled to call him 'Frank' now - does not reveal this information to Jimmy (so we can squeeze in a few more instances of him tragically reminding everyone how important it is to hurry so that his pal Shorty can be saved, I suppose) and sends him back out to wait with Peggy. He needs to talk to Kelly about something. Ruh roh. As soon as the kid's clear, he announces, with more gravitas than I would have thought possible, that 'Shorty just died'. He then tells Kelly something incredibly obvious (to everyone except Kelly, apparently): that the only way to prevent Jimmy from going back to Hell's House is for Kelly to confess. Kelly isn't terribly keen on going to prison and refuses. Because that's one of his three character traits, dammit, and it's going to take at least another minute's worth of persuasion to get him to radically change it.

Just then! In the outer office! The detectives have caught up with Jimmy! They move to take him into custody, but they fail to take into account Bette motherfucking Davis, who is having NONE OF IT.

Despite the typewriter fading into view, Peggy stands resolute, commanding the weepy secretary to 'call Mr. Gebhardt - QUICK'. Such a shining beacon of competence. Frank comes out, tells the coppers to hold their horses and goes back to work on convincing Kelly to stop being a heel. And we all know that if anyone tries to pull anything, they'll have Peggy to contend with.

Don't fuck with her, fellas. Meanwhile, Frank is yelling at Kelly what I'm sure all of us have been yelling at Kelly for the last 7000 years, or however long this goddamn movie has been going on. JIMMY'S THINKS YOU'RE AWESOME. YOU'RE REALLY A COWARD. STOP BEING A COWARD. BRING THE PLOT TO A CLOSE. Frank, in a film-concluding tour de force, brings Jimmy in, so that Kelly must tell the moron to his face that he's selling him up the river again to save his own hide. Of course, Kelly's too much of a coward to do that, so he, at long last, ends up doing the right thing, after the expected bit of schtick where Frank tells Jimmy the facts of the case and Jimmy, as ever stupidly sticking up for his pal Mr. Kelly, remains firmly and guilt-trippingly in denial. BUT KELLY FINALLY AGREES TO CONFESS AND GET JIMMY OFF THE HOOK! IT'S OVER! ... almost.

Stupid fucking Jimmy is upset that Kelly's going to prison, but, for someone who only seconds ago was being a cowardly jerk, Kelly himself is taking all this rather sanguinely.

Yup, he's done a total U-turn and is now being ludicrously noble and self-sacrificing. See, this is what happens when you force a character to deviate from his character trait. We saw it in Bad Sister and here it is again. 'Tain't right, I tell ya. Frank brings Peggy in, and she embraces Kelly with a sob. BECAUSE NOW SHE'S STUCK WITH GODDAMN JIMMY. This is the last we see of Bette. And it's not even her face. That's the gratitude Hell's House gives us for sticking with it this whole time.

Go to hell, Hell's House. Seriously.

We've got epilogue. A newspaper sporting a picture of Shorty proclaims that, based on Jimmy's story, the governor is promising (a politician's promise - brilliant) 'an immediate cleanup' of the juvenile system. Yippee. Jimmy sits in what appears to still be Gebhardt's office, staring mournfully at the photo.

He asks, voice choked with tears, 'How's it now, Shorty?' A not particularly ethereal voice responds, of course, 'Okay, big boy.' OH MY GOD. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.

And that, mercifully, is, at long, long, long last, THE END.

Sorry this was such a long time coming, folks - if anyone actually reads these things. I'll try to have our next gem, The Man Who Played God, up more quickly. At least we'll have made it to Warner Brothers then, and some good movies will be visible off in the distance. As it were.

Hope you enjoy, do please comment and see you next time for the thrilling adventures of Bette and Zombie!George Arliss! Good night and good luck.
Current Mood: pissed offpissed off
Bettina Dawesmothergoddamn on June 29th, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)

Wasn't Jimmy also closeted in real life? I recall something from Spada.

You need to get on Tumblr and post these things!
royaltyisshe64royaltyisshe64 on June 29th, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
I am SO HAPPY you enjoyed this. Because if no one read these things and found them entertaining, I would feel completely insane.

Spada just goes on about how young Dirkin got a stiffy during a scene with Bette because he totally had the hots for her. And calls Jimmy handsome?! Okay, big boy...

And I now have a tumblr! Consider it tumbl'd.