© 1943 Columbia Pictures Corporation

Footlight Glamour (1943)

In the 14th installment of Blondie series, the whole Bumstead family gets the acting bug and takes to the stage in an amateur stage production.

The play is ruined by Dagwood’s nervousness and suit filled with magicians tricks. The theatrical bomb was written by the daughter a prospective client of Dagwood’s boss, who sends her to stay with the Bumsteads in order to get her away from a theatrical producer who wants to marry her for money. Dagwood mistakenly believes she is a little girl, but she turns out to be a bombshell played by Ann Savage.

Savage was still two years away from her career-defining role in the budget film noir Detour, in which she plays a cigarette-dangling, blackmailing temptress who is one of the ultimate femme fatales of cinematic history. Savage started her career in 1938, doing extra work and bit parts before getting a contract with Columbia in 1943, doing co-star roles in lighter fare like Footlight Glamour. At the time, the biggest star at Columbia was Rita Hayworth, and all of the starlettes in the Columbia stable were being groomed to look like Hayworth. It shows here, as the emphasis is on the glamour, with Savage appearing in a tailored skirt suit, a chic evening dress, and a strapless formal gown with a short velvet cape held in place by a jeweled clasp. Two years later in Detour, she would play a hitchhiker who looked “like she had just fallen off a freight train” with oily skin, circles under her eyes, and greasy, wind-tangled hair in a performance that Wim Wenders later said was “at least 15 years ahead of its time.”  Decades later, inspired by the success of another ’40s actress, Gloria Stuart, who made a successful comeback in Titanic, Savage appeared in Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg at the age of 86.  In 1943, though, she was still the studio-manufactured glamour girl, but she nevertheless made this light comedy worth watching.

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