Thursday, December 19, 2002


A fairly minor but entertaining entry in the long-suffering-mothers genre of melodrama. The movie opens with Kay Francis as actress Stella Parish, about to open in London in her greatest triumph yet. She has carefully cultivated an air of mystery about herself in the press; she rarely socializes and is almost never photographed out of her stage makeup. As a favor to her manager and suitor (Paul Lukas), she agrees to attend an opening night party, but a shadowy figure from her past (Barton MacLane, who literally remains shadowy--we never actually see his face), shows up to threaten to expose some scandalous element from her past. She leaves London the next day, vanishing from public view, taking a passenger liner to the US. A reporter (Ian Hunter) runs into her by chance and even though Francis is in old-lady makeup and costume, he soon realizes who she is and what a story he has on his hands.

The scandal is that in her past, she was married to MacLane, and he killed a man who was flirting with her. She was charged as an accomplice and sent to prison, giving birth to a daughter behind bars. She is raising the daughter (well played by Sybil Jason) with the help of a relative (Jessie Ralph), but doesn't want the child to find out the details of her unsavory past. Hunter, while digging up the whole mess, finds himself falling in love with her and deciding to kill the story, but it leaks out anyway. And all this is just the first half of the movie! There are many more melodramatic plot turns before the relatively happy ending. Hunter, who was King Richard in the Errol Flynn ROBIN HOOD and the Christ figure in STRANGE CARGO, has a rare lead role here and pulls it off nicely, striking a balance between mercenary reporter and smitten sensitive guy. Francis's "lisp" gets in the way of the illusion that she is a great classical actress who would take London by storm, but we don't actually see much of her on stage and otherwise she's fine; the scenes of her in disguise on ship are fun. Worth watching, especially for fans of Francis and 30's "women's pictures."

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