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Beautiful, blonde soda jerker Cassie Barnes tires of small-town life and goes with her friend Dot to New York City, where she hopes to find an exciting, prosperous future. Cassie quickly discovers that men in New York are just as single-minded as those back home, and she is fired from a string of soda fountain jobs when she objects to the unwanted attentions of her employers. As she is about to be cheated of her wages by her latest romantic-minded boss, Cassie is aided by the drunken but gallant Jerry Dexter, who gives her a ride home. Cassie then renews her friendship with Gladys Kane, with whom she was friends as a child. Gladys, a model at Andre's fashionable dress shop, gets a job there for Cassie and reveals to her that she is being kept by a married banker named Arthur Phelps. Although Gladys really loves Phelps, Cassie doubts his sincerity when he makes a pass at her at the time of their first meeting. Cassie's own romance with Jerry appears to be going smoothly, but, unknown to her, he is married. Jerry has not lived with his wife for some time and pleads with her to give him a divorce, but she refuses. Curious to see her rival, Mrs. Dexter goes to Andre's and has Cassie model some dresses for her. Jerry arrives unexpectedly, and in his presence, Mrs. Dexter reveals her identity to Cassie, who is heartbroken and refuses to listen to Jerry's explanations. Gladys, who is going away on a special assignment for Andre, offers Cassie the use of her apartment and warns her to stay away from married men. Cassie asks Dot not to tell Jerry where she is staying, but Dot, who has fallen in love with Jerry's chauffeur, is easily cajoled into revealing Cassie's whereabouts, especially when Jerry states that his wife has agreed to a divorce. Dot calls Cassie with the news, and as the overjoyed Cassie is preparing for Jerry's visit, Phelps enters the apartment. He refuses to leave despite Cassie's pleas and is attempting to force himself on her when Jerry arrives. Jerry misinterprets the situation and leaves before Cassie can explain. Jerry refuses to see Cassie later, and she returns to her own apartment. Gladys returns home and summons Cassie, whom she tells that Phelps has deserted her to return to his wife. The distraught Gladys again warns Cassie to steer clear of married men, then dies from the poison she has taken. Cassie, disillusioned with life in the big city, returns home, where Jerry finds her some time later. A happy reunion then occurs as he tells her that he will soon be free to marry her.
Katherine Clare Ward
Three Wise Girls
Based on the story Blonde Baby by Wilson Collison, Three Wise Girls has the distinction of being the first film on which Jean Harlow received top billing. It was also the last film she ever made for Columbia. According to biographer Eve Golden in her biography, Platinum Girl: The Life and Legends of Jean Harlow, the actress was unhappy with this project, which was an uneven mixture of soap opera theatrics and streetwise humor. "Whereas she'd been groomed as a society debutante in Platinum Blonde ," Golden noted, "Jean looked more like a cheap hooker than a small-town belle in Three Wise Girls. Her eyes were heavily shadowed and her mouth done up in a nearly black cupid's bow, which Jean took as a bad sign. If her makeup was beginning to backslide, could her career be far behind?" Harlow may have had additional reasons to worry since her two co-stars Mae Clarke and Marie Prevost had scene-stealing supporting roles.
When Three Wise Girls opened in theatres, the New York Times displayed little enthusiasm in its review, calling it "a nursery primer on the alleged perils of a big city. It shows in easy symbols that gingham is plain but honest." Variety was not especially complimentary either, noting that Harlow "does her best to suggest the innocent young thing and does better than might be expected. But she fails to be convincing and Mae Clarke takes the acting honors from her, even with her stilted speeches."
Nevertheless, Harlow, whose career had been building since her memorable appearances in films like The Public Enemy and Platinum Blonde (both 1931), was finally reaching movie star status. With Three Wise Girls she proved that she could carry an entire film on her name alone, even if it didn't achieve the critical or box office success her films would have just a short time later at MGM, where she remained until her untimely death in 1937.
Director: William Beaudine
Screenplay: Wilson Collison (story); Agnes Christine Johnston (adaptation); Robert Riskin (dialogue)
Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff
Film Editing: Jack Dennis
Cast: Jean Harlow (Cassie Barnes), Mae Clarke (Gladys Kane), Walter Byron (Jerry Dexter), Marie Prevost (Dot); Andy Devine (Jimmy Callahan - Chauffeur), Natalie Moorhead (Ruth Dexter), Jameson Thomas (Arthur Phelps), Lucy Beaumont (Mrs. Barnes, Cassie's Mother), Kathrin Clare Ward (Mrs. Kane), Robert Dudley (Lem - the Druggist).
by Andrea Passafiume
Three Wise Girls
The working title of this film was Blonde Baby. According to the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Hays Office insisted that the story indicate unequivocally that "Jerry" is already separated from his wife when he begins his relationship with "Cassie." The Hays Office also insisted that publicity and advertising for the film not trade upon the source novel Blonde Baby, in which "Cassie" sleeps with "Jerry" and, after being discovered in bed by Jerry's wife and her hired detectives, is named a co-respondent in Jerry's divorce.