Time: 85 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction.
SYNOPSIS: Mary, a writer working on a novel about a love triangle, is attracted to her publisher, a supposedly unhappily married man who returns her attentions. Her would-be suitor Jimmy is determined to break them up so he introduces Mary to the publisher's wife without telling either of them their real identities. Trouble ensues.
BOTTOM LINE: It's hard to judge this film after seeing the 1941 remake starring Joan Crawford, Greer Garson and Robert Taylor. While both share the same flaws in story and execution, the later version's star power makes the situation far more compelling and interesting. Montgomery and Loy are more than watchable and have great spark, it's the casting of Frank Morgan and Ann Harding that leave the film a bit flat. While there's nothing particularly wrong with Harding's performance she's just not vibrant enough to make Morgan's leaving her for Loy much of surprise. However, it's inconceivable that a woman as smart and lovely as Loy would want to be with a stodgy, unattractive old man like Morgan over the handsome, fun and charming Montgomery. I don't care how much money or power was involved. Never going to happen.
In fact, Morgan is so much older than Loy and Harding that their relationships are a bit creepy. One can hardly blame his character for wanting to be with Loy, it's just, unlike Herbert Marshall, the role of a roving charmer is not something he's capable of pulling off. While the film features Jimmy's attempts to win Mary away from her aged suitor, it's clever and fun. He even brightens up Harding. Why he wasn't a bigger star is a mystery to me. The scene where the ladies meet is played with intelligence and poignancy and almost makes plodding through the machinations to get there worthwhile. While it's hard to imagine a wife actually agreeing to knowingly meet her husband's mistress and then rationally giving up her man once she realizes her marriage is over is absurd – it's still an intriguing concept. The only problem with the plan is that it deals with emotions. One of the best points of this film is that the women direct their anger at the person who deserves it most – the philandering husband who plays both of them for fools.
Granted the mistress should shoulder some of the blame, considering she did know that he was married, even though he claimed he wasn't happy. If that was really the case, man up and divorce your wife. In this instance, he wanted both the excitement and the stability. Loy's innate class and intelligence helps you to like her character despite her actions. Her horror at her behavior, once she realizes who she's talking to, is honest and heartfelt. Her grand idea becomes much harder to bear when in reality, which faces with the person who's life you're destroying. I don't think I'd thank her for her honesty. Harding plays these final scenes with more dignity than I could muster under the same circumstances. The other performance I have to mention is of Alice Brady She plays Mary's flighty friend untroubled by conventional morality, adding much needed humor and wit to the proceedings. Her ideas about love are absolutely spot on and guaranteed to make you chuckle. This film isn't a total loss as it explores a very interesting topic – whether one should stay in a dead relationship – without the usual moral preachiness, however, it doesn't manage to be very convincing about it either. Perhaps if I wasn't already familiar with the plot and ideas it would have captured my attention more.