Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Three on a Match: The Original Sex and the City

Once upon a time there were three (later four) girlfriends who lived in the big city. One was fun-loving, but good-hearted, one was career minded (and not man-minded), and one was the rich girl who thought all she wanted to do was get married, but learned later that all she really wanted to do was have sex, drink booze and do drugs.

In the new millennium, this could be Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbes, and Charlotte York/Samantha Jones of "Sex and the City". In 1932, it was Mary Keaton, Ruth Wescott and Vivian Revere of "Three on a Match." While the gals of the new century get to whoop it up over Cosmos and a variety of boyfriends, the ladies of 1932 have to pay. And yet, some things never change because, being women, they all pay a price. Being a dame on the lose in the city has always been tough on a girl's psyche, not to mention her lingerie. The end result: tears and regrets for some, a child for others, and the arms of a "Mr. Big" for the jackpot winner. Though they are generations apart, both stories are, at heart, ones of friendship, sexuality, a woman's life in a modern metropolis and her vague dissatisfaction with her role in society.

Mary Keaton/Carrie Bradshaw
While Carrie Bradshaw explored the life of a single, professional woman of style in the city from a writer's point of view, Joan Blondell's Mary Keaton viewed it from the vantage point of the showgirl (that working girl that was just one societal rung above that other kind of working girl). Mary had to do a stint in reform school for her youthful cheekiness, but she was a tough little survivor with a tender heart who made her way in the world with a cheerful outlook and an eye out for a nice dress and her own "Mr. Big."
both Mary & Carrie like unusual headgear

Ruth Wescott/Miranda Hobbes

Being a single career woman is never easy, but at least Miranda got to be a lawyer. Poor Ruth, the smartest girl in the class, had to settle for a secretarial position (I'll be she ran the office). While Miranda had more material success, both she and Ruth struggled with society's look of pity on the poor, smart, self-sufficient - UNMARRIED -woman. Forget the fact that both women were lovely. Bette looked kick-ass in her bathing suit and slip, but her brains relegated her to the sexless pile and her prize at the end was to raise another woman's child while Mary got the father.
no matter how hot you look,
if you have brains you have trouble attracting men

Vivian Revere/Charlotte York - Samantha Jones
Oh Vivian - you had it all. Just like Charlotte, you were brought up to be a lady. Just like Samantha, the siren song of men, booze and illegal drugs called to you. But, while Samantha mostly had fun with it and Charlotte's good-girl upbringing kept reeling her in, Vivian threw it all out the window for a handsome and fun-loving stud. Married to a loyal, but boring drip, she followed her - um - heart (or whatever body part was talking to her) and left hubby behind. She did show some motherly instincts and took Junior with her, but the sex and booze and drugs interfered with her parenting skills.
both Vivian and Samantha took pride in their linens
If Viv had lived in the new century, she would have either hired a full-time nanny or left Junior with his dad and embraced her latent party girl. She could have kept this up well into her 50s with good skin treatments and a personal trainer. Instead, she spent her days coked up and passed out. There was no way she would be allowed to be rehabilitated. And so, in a final act of heroic motherhood, she must die while Samantha Jones lives to party on into her golden years.
a scream is a scream is a scream ... or is it?

Mr. Big or The Elephant in the Room
Oh, there has to be a "Mr. Big" for every little girl, doesn't there? And so, in our pre-code pre-feminist day, there was Warren William. Here, he is a rich stuffed shirt. You can't blame Viv for being bored and you can't blame clever Mary Keaton for snatching him and the big bucks after Viv hits the pavement.
Mr. Big gets the pick of the remaining litter and selects the
sassy showgirl with the heart of gold for his bed
and the girl with brains to raise his kid. Life is good!
At least sisterhood prevails for the SATC women: through their many trials and many men, they remain friends. In 1932, two women remain friends while one lies splattered on the sidewalk, never knowing that one friend married her ex while the other became her son's nanny. Nice work, ladies.
No matter how daring our 1932 or 21st century darlings were, the core moral of the tale barely changes: don't be dissatisfied, little girl. Instead, find happiness in the arms of your own Mr. Big. Believe it, my dear, and you will weep and continue to keep looking for stories that promise that ever elusive happy ending.
Once upon a time there were three (or four) glamorous
girlfriends who lived in the city and they wanted
all of the good things life has to offer.....


ClassicBecky said...

What a great comparison review, FlickChick! Three on a Match is such a favorite of mine. I wasn't a Sex in the City rabid fan, but I watched quite a bit and liked it. You are so good at finding these kinds of links from classic days to modern, or from classic to classic! Great idea, and really fun post!

FlickChick said...

Oh, thanks, Becky. I don't know - every time I see something, it usually reminds me of something I've seen before! And any time I can find an excuse to write about Ann Dvorak, I'm going to do it.

Kimberly J.M. Wilson said...

I just loved this part: "In 1932, two women remain friends while one lies splattered on the sidewalk, never knowing that one friend married her ex while the other became her son's nanny. Nice work, ladies." Priceless! I liked this analysis--it was entertaining and made me really rethink Three on a Match.

FlickChick said...

Thanks you so much, Kim. I really had some fun with this one. I fine "Three on a Match" to be one of those movies I can relate to just about anything.

Anonymous said...

How imaginative! I never would have thought of comparing these two -- and now that you have, I can't think how I didn't see it before! I loved your post -- and laughed out loud more than once.

FlickChick said...

Thanks so much - I appreciate the comment and am so glad you enjoyed it.

Diane said...

This was just brilliant. I really loved this post. What a great comparison. I loved the pictures.

FlickChick said...

Glad you liked it Diane (remember - you were the one who told me to start watching SATC!).

Martin Turnbull (the Garden of Allah novels) said...

How funny you should write about this one. I just watched it a few months ago and can't believe I didn't see the parallel to SATC! But you're so right. Now I want to watch it again and view it through the SATC prism!

FlickChick said...

Martin, you are sweet to stop by. What made me relate this to SATC is the photo of the 3 ladies lighting the cigarettes - it reminded me of Carrie & Co. By the way - your book is next on my reading list - can't wait!