At the Paramount
"Strawberry Blonde" is a nice bit of escape back into the barber-shop days before the first World War, when men inhaled birch beer like coke and the biggest blood-suckers were only leeches. James Cagney in his usual punching self demonstrated that the world is his with two fists and a correspondence course in dentistry. He picked up an alluring nurse--Olivia de Haviland, in a swell park scene, but doesn't like her. Instead the cockney Irishman chases exciting Rita Hayworth, the strawberry blonde, and isn't fast enough to land her. But you knew he would marry Olivia and become a dentist. Black-mailed and jugged by a former friend, Cagney gets his diploma in "solitary," bounces back into life, does some nice revenging and sends the fans home happy.
It is a slow show saved by some top-rung acting. Oliva de Haviland proffers a pleasing new approach, abandoning Melanie's sweet-souled idealism for a rougher characterization. Alan Hale as a street-cleaner and wife-wolfer is huge and gives the customers a few hearty giggles. Cagney's successful plodding is beautifully contrasted against the strawberry blonde's hypocritical and disastrous social climbing.