Jay Fenton on 'Blonde Ice'

At the time of its release in 1948, the scant reviews of BLONDE ICE condemned the title by saying "it's not a nice film.”   It belonged to that obscure realm of “B” films noir in which a woman is shown totally grasping and willing to use any means--------including murder------to get what she wants.  Claire isn’t interested in the typical virtues of the 40’s woman such as love, family, motherhood, etc.  She is overwhelmingly obsessed with money and position to the point of psychosis. Americans prefer to think of criminals as “sick” rather than evil and her sickness provided the element of punishment necessary to the movie's moral code of good always triumphing over evil. 

It's star, Leslie Brooks, was a second lead---a leading lady, but in “B” or  “second features, which occupied the bottom half of a double feature.  She had  relatively small parts in such “A” films as ZIEGFELD GIRL, YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER, YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, and COVER GIRL, but could shine in “B” films like TWO SENORITAS FROM CHICAGO, WHAT’S BUZZIN’ COUSIN and I LOVE A BANDLEADER. BLONDE ICE was her last film before retirement.  While her acting ability gave Katherine Hepburnnd Bette Davis few sleepless nights, she is absolutely right  for this part. 
  Two things make BLONDE ICE a real find.  One is the highly professional cast of  character actors surrounding leads Brooks and Robert Paige.  The 30’s and 40’s  were the great era of the character actor. They were cast in the same part over  and over again so that whenever they walked on the screen the audience knew exactly what their personalities would be.  There was James Griffith, the catty, intrusive “bitch in trousers”; Walter Sande, the loyal, good-natured best friend of the hero; James Whalen, the dignified politician who always seemed to fall in love unwisely; and David Leonard, the kindly but suspicious psychiatrist with  the hint of a German accent.   It was a simpler era when audiences liked “types” and found them the easiest to accept on the screen.  It also helped reinforce the very satisfying human idea that a person’s personality was directly related to his appearance. 

The other outstanding quality of BLONDE ICE is the cinematography by George Robinson, one of Universal’s most gifted “house” cameramen, who was responsible for the menacing atmosphere of DRACULA’S DAUGHTER, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN, Universal’s Spanish language version of DRACULA, etc.  Who better than an expert in horror films to show the human monsters of film noir? 

  But like many "B" films of the era, BLONDE ICE is almost a lost film.  The production company, Film Classics, like many other studios, showed little interest in preserving their film libraries.  Some major studios went so far as to destroy both prints and negatives of their less profitable titles to save  money on storage rental fees at film exchanges ----------- sometimes, just so the reels could be re-used.  If the studio didn’t pay its film rental bill, the exchange would sell off the prints to private collectors.  But this was a Janus coin with two sides.   


Film collecting was, until the advent of video, a technically illegal hobby, and  if it weren’t for the interest and diligence of private collectors, BLONDE ICE and many other films wouldn’t exist today.  Although you can buy a copy of a book or a music CD, it’s illegal to own a print of a film.  Some collectors, including major movie stars and directors, were visited by the FBI and their film collections confiscated to keep rare films from being “pirated” by collectors who wanted to watch them in their living rooms.   
  But if it weren’t for these “criminal hobbyists” many of the marvelous films now being made available on DVD wouldn’t have been preserved for the world to see.   These collectors were the inadvertent saviors of our film history, but were all too often crucified as common thieves. 


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