Min and Bill is a 1930 American Pre-Code comedy-drama film starring Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery and based on Lorna Moon's novel Dark Star, adapted by Frances Marion and Marion Jackson. The film tells the story of dockside innkeeper Min's tribulations as she tries to protect the innocence of her adopted daughter Nancy, all while loving and fighting with boozy fisherman Bill, who resides at the inn.
Min and Bill stars Marie Dressler (Min), Wallace Beery (Bill), Dorothy Jordan (Nancy), and Marjorie Rambeau (Bella, Nancy's ill-reputed mother), and was directed by George W. Hill. Dressler won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1931 for her performance in this film.
This film was such a runaway hit that it and its near-sequel Tugboat Annie, which reteamed Dressler and Beery in similar roles, boosted both to superstar status. Dressler topped Quigley Publications' annual Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll of movie exhibitors in 1933, and the two pairings with Dressler were primarily responsible for Beery becoming MGM's highest paid actor in the early 1930s, before Clark Gable took over that crown; Beery had a clause in his 1932 contract that he be paid a dollar per year more than any other actor on the lot.
Min Divot (Marie Dressler) runs a dockside inn. She has been raising Nancy Smith (Dorothy Jordan) as her own since her prostitute mother, Bella (Majorie Rambeau), left her at the inn as an infant. Min frequently argues with fisherman Bill (Wallace Beery). Despite Bill's near-constant drinking, Min and he care for each other. Bill and she are the only ones who know the identity of Nancy's real, still living, mother.
Min does her best to raise Nancy and keep her from learning about the real activities of the people who live and work on the docks. Despite not having much extra money or a home outside her inn, Min does her best to raise Nancy into a young lady. She does everything she can to make sure Nancy is never around when Bella arrives for a visit.
Nancy loves Min as her own mother and frequently skips school to be with her. After repeatedly dealing with the truant officer, Min uses the money she had hidden in her room to send Nancy to a fancy boarding school. She hopes the school will teach Nancy better manners than what she had been picking up from Bill and the others on the docks. The schooling works and Nancy returns to Min with good manners, an education, and the news that she is now engaged to a very wealthy man. She wants Min to attend the wedding.
Min is thrilled until she finds out that Bella has returned. Seeing how happy Nancy is to be getting married (and the wedding will be taking place in a few days), Min deliberately argues with Nancy and says terrible things she does not mean for Nancy to immediately leave. She is mad at herself for hurting Nancy, but is relieved that she is gone by the time Bella arrives. Min stalls Bella, hoping the wedding will take place and the couple can leave for their honeymoon before Bella can interfere.
Bella arrives as the ceremony takes place. She confronts Min in an upstairs room in her inn. She has discovered her daughter's identity, and that of her very wealthy new husband. She taunts Min with the information and pledges to torment Nancy and her new husband until they give her money and take her into their new home.
Min thinks about the wedding and Nancy's happiness and tries to prevent Bella from leaving. When Bella attacks Min with a hot curling iron and attempts to leave, Min takes a hidden gun and shoots her dead. Min drops the gun and flees the room. Bill, knowing what was going on, tries to help Min, but she leaves the inn. Min wants to see Nancy one last time. She sees the happy couple as they are about to board a boat to their honeymoon. Min watches, but decides not to let Nancy know she is there and stays hidden in the crowd. Two police officers quietly confront Min about the shooting at the inn. Min does not say much. She takes one final look at a smiling Nancy as she leaves with her husband. Min turns back and smiles as she quietly walks away with the officers. She is sad that it may be the last time she ever sees Nancy, but at the same time, she is happy that Nancy managed to escape a dead-end life by the docks.Marie Dressler as Min Divot
Wallace Beery as Bill
Dorothy Jordan as Nancy Smith
Marjorie Rambeau as Bella Pringle
Donald Dillaway as Dick Cameron
DeWitt Jennings as Mr Groot
Russell Hopton as Alec Johnson
Frank McGlynn, Sr. as Mr Southard
Jack Kerouac, in On the Road, has his protagonist-narrator Sal Paradise compare Dean Moriarty and his second wife Camille to Min and Bill.
At Disney's Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, homage to Min and Bill is paid in the form of a counter service restaurant. Min and Bill's Dockside Diner is in the shape of Bill's fishing trawler, and "floats" in Echo Lake near the center of the park.
The film made a profit of $731,000.