Wednesday, March 27, 2002


This is an interesting pre-Code film based on a Philip Barry play. Since I liked HOLIDAY and THE PHILADELPHIA STORY so much, I figured I'd like this and I did, but it's the weakest of the three Barry movies I've seen. Leslie Howard is a publisher of fine art and philosophy books who is about to marry Myrna Loy when his old friend and occasional lover (and free soul) Ann Harding turns up more or less out of the blue and expresses interest in getting married and having a child. It's interesting that it's the desire for a child, not necessarily "true love" that makes her propose to Howard. Howard says no but wants to remain friends--Harding can't face that, so she breaks things off.

Soon, Loy is trying to run Howard's life by getting him away from his somewhat bohemian friends and pushing him to publish crappy but popular books to make more money. Harding re-enters his life and Howard has to make important decisions involving his women and his career. Loy and Howard are both good--Loy especially is sexy and conniving. In one scene, she gets Howard to stay home with her by nuzzling his neck while wearing a remarkably revealing negligee. There's a wonderful scene near the end where she implies that she will have sex with him in order to give him a child if he will sell his business for a great deal of money. Howard catches on and basically treats her like a whore. For a 30's movie, the unsavory connection is remarkably clear; I'm sure it couldn't have been if it had been made just a few years later. Harding was the weak link. Maybe because it's a Barry play, I kept imagining Katharine Hepburn in the role; she certainly would have been more lively than the wooden, stagy Harding, who I found difficult to believe as a bohemian. William Gargan is Howard's butler and sort of the moral center of the film. Ilka Chase is fun in a fairly small part as a friend of Loy's.

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