Records of Material Objects in the Cinema #8: Joan Bennett's Blonde Hair, Pt. 2

A scene of erotic reverie in Frank Borzage's _Doctors' Wives_ featuring a young, gorgeous Joan Bennett.
Daniel Kasman

A hallmark for director Frank Borzage's films—and one of cinema's greatest pleasures—is how touchy his love scenes are. Even to modern eyes, but especially when one is accustomed to the rather rote and mechanical embraces and chaste, closed-mouth kisses of classical Hollywood, Borzage's best love scenes are thrillingly tactile, as if the lovers can't get enough of being with the person, they need to reach out and confirm physically, tenderly that they are there. Words like "fondle" and "caress" come to mind, but without the lascivious quality these might suggest.

That is, perhaps, until we get a stiff male lead like Warren Baxter and extract a love scene from its story context, slowing it down in the process.  In the below sequence from 1931's Doctors' Wives, with his malicious grin, Baxter comes off as some kind of quasi-murderer/pervert, but despite Baxter's profound lack of sympathetic intimacy, it's a beautiful, strange scene where the film stops in its tracks for a good minute as he tosses Joan Bennett's blonde hair hither and thither in a playful erotic reverie, and she smiles, laughs, and melts at the touch.

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Joan Bennett's blonde hair, from Frank Borzage's Doctors' Wives (1931), slowed down 50%, sound eliminated; also featuring Warren Baxter; cinematography by Arthur Edeson.

Related: Joan Bennett's Blonde Hair, Pt. 1, in images from the same film.

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