24 Hours (1931) **

The chief appeal in this morbid dirge (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) is the chance it offers to show two great stars at the height of their powers. (I say two because, likeable as Clive Brook is, he can't really be said to have powers as such: he gives exactly the same performance every time, and it's always one that doesn't require any facial expressions.) Miriam Hopkins and Kay Francis would be teamed again, of course, in Trouble In Paradise, but that light and elegant thing is the mirror image of this sleazy slice of New York nightlife.

Miriam, who is murdered just before the halfway mark, plays a trampy nightclub chanteuse, deserving full marks for her untrained but most effective delivery of a number called You're the One I Crave. Kay, from the other side of the tracks, is in Brett Ashley mode, and few actresses of her generation so ably conveyed existential ennui and fatalistic erotic gloom.Watch her in the opening scene especially. She’s at a small party, depressed, bored, incredibly alluring in a very simple white dress, clearly the most fascinating woman in the room, but crippled with dissatisfaction and a physical beauty she carries like a hernia. She says virtually nothing, but every gesture, every movement tells. (You have to go back to Louise Brooks in Germany for anything comparable.)
As the title suggests, the whole narrative unfolds over a single twenty-four hour period; it's all good, gloomy pre-Code Paramount, with infidelity, jealousy, alcoholism, nightclubs and at least one dead body bleeding in the snow.