Big Brown Eyes

BBE_Poster_1936A few weeks ago I came across a Cary Grant DVD collection at a garage sale. While I hadn’t heard of any of the five films in the set, it was only a dollar, and I figured Cary Grant is usually worth watching, so I picked it up. The first film I decided to check out was the 1936 film Big Brown Eyes, directed by Raoul Walsh.

It must be noted that it’s a good thing the DVD collection had brief synopses of the plots, or I wouldn’t have known what to expect from this title. Big Brown Eyes is not a title that in any way lets the viewer know what it’s about; it also has no significance whatsoever within the film. Given that it’s also fairly generic, it’s a wonder they didn’t go with a more apt title such as “The Jewellery Caper” or “The Baby Killers”.


Why name your film after something the audience can’t see?

Grant plays Detective Danny Barr, investigating local jewelry thefts. Co-starring is Joan Bennett as Eve Fallon, a manicurist turned newspaper reporter on the whim of an editor. Jewelry thefts would be enough to make for a reasonably interesting mystery, but Big Brown Eyes raises the stakes by having a deal go bad for the thieves. During the shootout that results between the thieves and the prospective buyers, an infant in the park is struck by a stray bullet and killed. Now Danny isn’t investigating simple burglary charges… he has to find a murderer.

Although Grant gets top billing (both on the DVD and the original movie poster), he isn’t really the star of the film. As Eve, Bennett is the driving force for much of the movie, and it’s her who is most successful at investigating and cracking the case. It could be considered very progressive for the 1930s, save for one significant problem: the film regularly takes a sharp turn into the sexual misunderstandings of screwball comedies and melodramatic romances. A batty spinster is one of the victims of theft, and Grant’s interviews with her lead Eve to think there’s something else going on between them. As a result, she switches between a competent, clever investigative reporter and a jealous irrational shrew with the frequency of a strobe light. It’s a huge detriment to both the character and the film, as she isn’t even given the remotest cause for this jealousy, and it completely derails the plot whenever it crops up again.

When it focuses on just being a crime drama, Big Brown Eyes is entertaining and thoughtful. But its handling of the female lead is highly distracting and brings the film down.

Rating: 3 Stars

About Morgan R. Lewis

Fan of movies and other media
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4 Responses to Big Brown Eyes

  1. I’d buy that for a dollar. First I have heard of this one Morgan.

  2. Interesting selection. I don’t think I have seen any of Grant’s 30s work, but this one sounds pretty underwhelming. What are the other films in the box set?

    • This film really would have been pretty good if it weren’t for the “RAUGH you were within 50 feet of another woman!” aspect. Oh well.

      The other films on the collection are Thirty Day Princess (1934), Kiss and Make Up (1934), Wings in the Dark (1935), and Wedding Present (1936).

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