Working Woman's Blues

'The Traveling Saleslady'/'Miss Pacific Fleet'

by Michael Barrett

20 April 2012

cover art

Joan Blondell-Glenda Farrell Double Feature

Director: Ray Enright
Cast: Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell

US DVD: 5 Apr 2012

Seemingly shot back to back, these are snappy one-hour larks that couldn’t be more inconsequential. Fortunately, their strong working-women’s roles have kept them watchable.

In Traveling Saleslady, Joan Blondell feels enervated as the rich daughter of a toothpaste tycoon. Since daddy is a fuddy-duddy who refuses to give her a job and says women shouldn’t work, she hooks up with his chief rival. Her secret weapon is an alchohol-flavored line developed by a wacky scatterbrain (Hugh Herbert). Soon Cocktail Toothpaste is a smash, and why wouldn’t it be? Meanwhile she flirts with her father’s chief salesman (William Gargan), whom she out-maneuvers at every turn until she finally brokers two mergers at once and proposes to him. Her charms are obvious, his less so, but you couldn’t have a successful businesswoman in the movies who doesn’t fall for some chump eventually to prove she’s a real woman. The implication is that she’s going to turn domestic now, though that’s the hardest detail to swallow. She claims to know how to cook, but she surely never boiled water in her life.
Farrell, billed as Blondell’s co-star, has only a minor role as Gargan’s previous girl, another executive in a male-dominated business. So they’re technically rivals. However, they’re friends and roommates in Miss Pacific Fleet, which brings back Herbert as a fumbling, philandering promoter of the title contest. Because Blondell has been arrested more or less for prostitution (mistakenly, of course) and they’re in debt to the eyeballs, the gals pin their hopes on winning the contest and its cash prize. A rowdy sailer and sometime pugilist (Allen Jenkins) pitches woo to Blondell and promises to help her win, but she has eyes for his handsome marine buddy (Warren Hull).

The charm of these cinematic trivialities is their nonstop patter, with the weary heroines firing off double-plated zingers to show how jaded they are while still willing to be romantic with the right guy. The first film features Blondell’s character on top all the way, moving the plot along like a dynamo. The second film puts the dames behind the eight ball and has them more acted upon and dependent on others, and to that extent it’s less interesting. Both are pleasant time-passers, nothing more nor less.

Joan Blondell-Glenda Farrell Double Feature


We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

READ the article