Three on a Match - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Three on a Match Reviews

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Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2016
Very entertaining. To start with you have Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, and Warren William all delivering great performances. Add to that a 24-year-old Bette Davis in a supporting role showing off her legs in addition to her beautiful face, Humphrey Bogart working on his tough guy character 9 years before 'The Maltese Falcon', and a number of cute performances by child actors, most notably 6-year-old Buster Phelps. There are shots of newspapers headlines over the years of the previous decade, including the 'amazing feat of the new wireless telephone' (radio), and the trend of wearing 'sun suits', the 'new brief attire greatly favored for bathing resorts' for the 'fad of sun-bathing'. You see Joan Blondell in prison, listening to a stories read out of a steamy book, and then later connected to a giant hair-curling machine with wires descending from the ceiling to her metallic skullcap. The pre-Code script is a little over-the-top but that's part of the fun. It has three girls growing up into very 'types' of women, and then Dvorak's character getting so bored with her life of luxury that she slips into alcohol, drugs, and adultery, imperiling her little boy. Director Mervyn LeRoy keeps things moving and I liked how it was both short, at 63 minutes, but also packed with content. It's not "high art" or anything, but there are so many bits of interest that this is one that I would recommend to people who aren't normally interested in old movies, and I round up my review score a bit.
December 9, 2015
Good "Pre-Code" film.
September 4, 2015
If you are watching as a Bette Davis fan, you will be somewhat disappointed as she is rarely seen. The film is an entertaining and a somewhat toned down Joan Blondell is wonderful to watch. Three elementary school friends, all very different meet again years later and become tangled in one anothers lives.
February 9, 2015
It's truly a brilliant movie. The story is really about two women - but the contrivance works in that you need two people to gossip about a third, an effective device for exposition. Ann Dvorak is stunning as the socialite wife who descends to dereliction and Lyle Talbot, as her abettor, is super. It's a terrific story that makes a terrific film.
½ November 17, 2014
THREE ON A MATCH (First National Pictures, 1932), directed by Mervyn LeRoy, is a realistic account into the lives of three former classmates who meet again as adults, and how one of the three goes through her path of self destruction... Pre-Code Soap Opera With Style--When you play with matches you get burned... The epitome of pre-code degradation and despair!!
June 11, 2013
something interesting, yet really old school.. I saw it merely for Bette Davis' sake.. I love that Lady.
½ April 21, 2013
Pre-code movies are awesome.
October 17, 2012
3: One doesn't often think about it, but mothers abandoning their children, divorce (unless it's light-hearted divorce), kidnapping, suicide, etc are not often to be found in films made under the production code. It's a nice little picture. I definitely never realized Bette Davis was this attractive before, but then again, I don't think I ever saw here in a picture this early in her career. She definitely has the bloom of youth. Extremely sophisticated picture considering it was made in 1932.
August 19, 2012
"three on a match" is a forgettable film, that mainly all i remember is how criminally under used bette davis and humphrey bogart were.
Super Reviewer
½ May 16, 2012
Adultery, child abuse, kidnapping, suicide and Joan Blondell. Not necessarily in that order.
November 26, 2011
If only the thugs would have murdered that kid, he was so annoying. I'd like to track him down now and berate him for being that cloyingly cute to the point of obnoxiousness. Except if the kid is alive, he'd be about ninety so I don't think it's very nice to verbally assault the elderly. Except if they are related of course.
½ August 29, 2011
A cute boy, Bette Davis, and shnazzy thirties jazz are the only redeeming qualities in this film. It lacks plot, heart, and pace. The actors are forgettable, as are their lines.
August 14, 2011
"I'm not so sure about that Bette Davis.."

That was a quote from the director when speaking to the WB front office about the great turns shown by the young cast members of 'Three on a match'. Ann Dvorak received high marks for this great showing as a socialite who tires of her lifelong place in the upper crust of virtue and society only to take the most devestating of falls to the bottom. Joan Blondell also received high marks for her role as Dvorak's childhood friend and social opposite who soon takes her place at home and in high society. Davis, who gave a standard turn for a supporting role, didn't earn Mr. LeRoy's kudos... but everyone makes a mistake now and then.

I'll admit, I didn't expect too much out of this film and was greatly surprised. The story starts out innocently enough (as many a WB early 30's crime drama did) and then opened a wound just to pour salt in it with a lemon juice chaser by the very riveting end. Lyle Talbot and Warren William turn in very good supporting turns along with a very early gangster cameo for Humphrey Bogart.

Well paced and to the gritty point, this one is a keeper. Popcorn and absolutely no bathroom breaks.
June 11, 2011
Mervyn LeRoy, who helmed LITTLE CAESAR, directed this urban yarn about three women who attened Public School No. 62 together and then went their separate ways. Fun-loving Mary Keaton wound up in reform school. Ruth Westcott, who graduated with highest honors, went off to business college to learn how to use a typewriter. Finally, Vivian Revere went to an elite boarding school. Ultimately, Vivian (Ann Dvorak of G-MEN) marries a wealthy lawyer (Warren William) and has a little boy. Mary (Joan Blondell) survives the reformatory and becomes a dancer in the chorus line. Ruth (Bette Davis) works in a business office as a secretary. The problem with poor Vivian is that she does not appreciate all the good fortune that she has achieved. She does not love her husband, refuses to kiss him on the mouth, and she wants to separate from him. Robert Kirkwood (Warren William) agrees to send her and his son on a cruise. Vivian runs into Mary aboard the ship before it heaves anchor. Mary is enjoying a party with several people, one of whom is a shady character (Lyle Talbot) who eventually gets Vivian drunk and preys on her weakness for alcohol. Vivian leaves the ship under mysterious circumstances and Kirkwood sends out detectives to find her with no luck. Mary realizes the wrong that she has done and worries about the welfare of Vivian's child. Eventually, Vivian turns into an alcohol and there is the implication that she is snorting cocaine. She divorces Kirkwood and he remarries. He takes Mary Keaton has his wife and they live happily until Vivian needs money and her evil boyfriend kidnaps her son to pay off his debts to a gangster (Edward Arnold) who employs a nasty thug (Humphrey Bogart in a minor role). Meantime, the cops close in on the kidnappers and a desperate Vivian writes a note on her gown about the whereabouts of her son and crashes through an upstairs window and dies when she strikes the stairs outside the apartment building. Mervyn LeRoy does a good job with this 64 minute drama. He establishes the historical setting of the events and that adds to the realism. This is an example of Pre-Code Hollywood entertainment and it is well above average. Bette Davis exposes more of her flesh that she ever would in later pictures, and Warren William (who went on to play the first Perry Mason) is cast ironically as a sympathetic character.
Super Reviewer
½ November 7, 2010
Dvorak is a real louse as pampered wife/mother who abandons her spouse and then gets mixed up in a kidnapping scheme. OK but predictable with another supposed-to-be-cute-but-in-fact-terribly-annoying child actor. Joan Blondell is fine in an important role but the real draw is to see some early screen work of Humphery Bogart as a no-nonsense thug and Bette Davis as a bleached-blonde former friend of Dvorak's.
Super Reviewer
½ October 27, 2010
This movie has a promising start, but then the story goes all over the place, once it gets back on track, it's not what you expected from the beginning, but then it gets exciting when Bogart's gang kidnaps the lady's son, and the ending was really good. And for some reason the movie is frequently interrupted by newspapers telling us about the changing world of the 20s, it's annoying and unnecessary. Overall a pretty good movie, but it should have been more dramatic and exciting throughout, instead of just at the end.
½ October 21, 2010
Story of 3 women who grow up together and then reconnect later on, the film is a little lop sided in distributing screen time, but it is interesting to see the paths they take, some cool actors, Bogart looks really young and is pretty menacing, the end of the movie is spectacularly violent, so that's nice.
½ August 12, 2010
good stuff great pre-code movie
May 26, 2010
Sex, adultery, drug use, child abuse, drunkeness, kidnapping, violence, suicide... Quite a movie.
½ April 22, 2010
I'm not sure if the structure or pacing of this movie could be any more appropriate. The newspaper headlines that tell us the setting echo the whole theme and tone of the picture--quick, jarring, shameless, and to the point.
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