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Many movie buffs consider this the greatest of Kay Francis' "Monogram Trilogy". It's a nice companion piece for MILDRED PIERCE (also 1945) -- only ALLOTMENT WIVES has a harder edge -- Kay Francis is tougher, in a more complex role. She looks slim and ellegant here as she leads a crime syndicate while fronting with a chic salon. The movie is full of surprises and suspense. Perfect help comes from Teala Loring as Kay's troubled daughter who is kept from harms method at a personal women school. Their scenes together have a genuine feeling that allows sympathy for their case and struggle. Kay's final stage on the staircase is a classic and her exit line is a memorable one. Gertrude Michael does a fine job as Kay's long lost mate out to do her no good. Her hero throws more sympathy Kay's method even though Kay herself has a cold-blooded side in a losing "man's" game.
There is nice cause for celebration among fanatics of obscure and esoteric movies because ALLOTMENT WIVES (1945), a provocative and tremendously fascinating example of poverty row noir finally premieres on Turner Classic Films on September 26. Produced as part of a three picture deal between star / producer Kay Francis and Monogram Pictures, this peculiar trilogy served as Miss Francis' Hollywood swan song. The another two films, DIVORCE (1945) and WIFE WANTED (1946) are both well-produced, better than average melodramas, but nowhere near as ambitious or entertaining as ALLOTMENT WIVES. What this movie might lack in customary Hollywood sophistication it more than makes up for in gnarly pulp energy. Francis plays Sheila Seymour, a sleek and ellegant society gal who in reality is the head of a noxious crime syndicate that preys mercilessly on returning Globe Fight II servicemen. They zero in on impressionable and lonely vets and before long they're engaged to one of Sheila's "girls." After pocketing the GI's allotment pay, the gals are later on their method to their next mark, leaving a trail of devastated saps strewn along the post-war landscape. Things become emotionally complicated when Sheila's pretty young daughter Corrine (Teala Loring) arrives home from her swanky boarding school (she's been oblivious to Mom's business dealings) and slowly starts to unravel the sordid features of her mother's dreadful criminal activities. Also in the cast are the wonderfully creepy Otto Kruger as Francis' odious partner in crime, the equally creepy Paul Kelly as a military investigator and the everytime menacing Gertrude Michael as one of Francis' old racket rivals who's out for a tiny revenge. In many methods this movie bears more than a passing resemblance to the much tonier and more popular MILDRED PIERCE, released by Warner Bros the same year. But ALLOTMENT WIVES gets the nasty tone of noir's tawdrier aspects better than Michael Curtiz' glossy soap opera. In fact, the crucial showdown stage between mother and daughter at the climax of ALLOTMENT WIVES plays out much more dramatically and, more importantly, realistically than the overwrought scenes between Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth. For those who play their movie noir a bit on the exotic side, ALLOTMENT WIVES is gotta viewing, especially for those with a predisposition for down and dirty, unpretentious poverty row entertainment.
The nice Kay Francis was an astute actress. She knew this project was going to be her farewell to a distinguished film career and decided to co-produce the picture herself, something that assured one of the greatest roles she made in the industry. She proved she was quite at home in sophisticated comedies, as well as portraying this Sheila Seymour, who was some piece of work. Working with director William Nigh, "Allotment Wives" doesn't pretend to be anything another than an entertaining drama with a shade of movie noir mixed in.Sheila Seymour is the sly head of a racket that involved monies that phony wives claimed about GIs fighting WWII. Her front is some sort of a canteen where troops mix with women for entertainment and where some of the candidates for doing the dirty jobs can be found. Sheila is also the owner of a salon where wealthy ladies are pampered and who love to return Sheila's kindness by offering their support giving the troops a great send off before they have to go to war. Tiny does Sheila know her empire was coming to a tragic end when Pete Martin enters the picture!Kay Francis is excellent, as always. She wasn't a beauty by Hollywood standards, but what a presence she projected! She place most of her peers to shame, as she shows in this picture. Paul Kelly, Otto Kruger, Gertrude Michael, Teala Loring, and the rest of the helping users create the greatest of their characters."Allotment Wives" was a rare search when we stumbled into it by just pure coincidence. It is suggested for fanatics of Kay Francis. She will not disappoint.
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