Monday, August 05, 2002


William Powell and Myrna Loy in a cross between a Thin Man movie (done as a courtroom drama instead of as a comic detective story) and a serious THE AWFUL TRUTH. I'm going to discuss the plot in some detail, but nothing here will give away the ending. Powell is a successful and busy lawyer (finishing up a headline-grabbing case defending Rosalind Russell) and Loy is his wife, who is feeling like she's taking second place in Powell's life. Powell may or may not have had a brief fling with Russell; this came out the year they began to enforce the Code, so things are left a little murky. They definitely shared a train compartment when they shouldn't have. Loy finds out and retalitates by getting serious with a drunken lout of an admirer (Harvey Stephens), although again, whether or not their relationship becomes physical is left up in the air. This reminded me of THE AWFUL TRUTH, where I think we're supposed to believe that both Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are innocent of any real hanky-panky, but the possibility has to remain in the air for the plot to make sense.

Stephens blackmails Loy with incriminating letters she wrote to him. Loy threatens him with a gun. We know that the gun goes off and that Stephens winds up dead, but we don't see the actual incident. A sleazy girlfriend of Stephens', Isabel Jewell, is arrested for the murder, and Powell, who knows nothing about all of this, takes her case, at the instigation of Loy--she thinks he's such a good lawyer, he'll be able to get Jewell off and ease her conscience. However, once we get in the courtroom, there are surprises for everyone.

Despite a couple of cheating moments (we see Loy confront Stephens but are denied seeing the climax of the scene just so that vital information is withheld from us until the end), this is well plotted and well acted. Russell pretty much vanishes at the halfway point, but the rest of the supporting cast is very good, especially Una Merkel, as a friend of Loy's, and Jessie Ralph, as an old woman who could posibly identify Loy as being present the night of the murder. Isabel Jewell is also good; I'm not sure why she didn't have a stronger career. Definitely recommended.

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