Sunday, May 11, 2003


By coincidence, here's another Ann Harding movie from 1935 that I watched the day after ENCHANTED APRIL. Harding is better in this one, but her biggest weakness remains her inconsistent comic touch. She plays an infamous artist who paints portraits of the rich and famous and who has become fairly famous herself. As far as the rich part, she seems to spend money as fast as she makes it; early on, we see her furniture being repossessed. Magazine editor Robert Montgomery approaches her, fresh off the boat from Europe, with the idea of helping her write her life story for his magazine, Everyweek. He'll edit her memoirs and pay her good money. She takes him up on the offer, not realizing the distress she causes an old boyfriend, Edward Everett Horton, who happens to be running for the Senate. Horton and his powerful future father-in-law (Charles Richman) try to sabotage the publication of the articles. Horton's fiancee (Una Merkel) is a good egg and doesn't seem to care much about the possibility of scandal. We're never sure just what transpired between Harding and Horton that would be considered so scandalous; apparently, the play the movie was based on may have been more forward about it, but some material was cut to satisfy the Production Code.

The lack of this background and the murky motivations of most of the characters (we never really get to know even the two principals very well) make it a little difficult to get involved in the story, though the actors and the light tone make it mostly fun to watch. Edward Arnold does a nice job (with a German accent) as a rich admirer of Harding's; he serves little purpose in the plot except to show us that Harding wants to marry for love, not money. Greta Meyer is fun as Harding's protective maid; Donald Meek and Mischa Auer have small roles. Merkel, as usual, doesn't have enough to do, but she's a delight whenever she's on screen. The themes of class and tolerance crop up in rather disjointed fashion; see THE PHILADELPHIA STORY for somewhat more coherent treatment. Harding and Montgomery are not among my favorite actors, but both are fine here. Montgomery wears glasses that make him look startlingly like Clark Kent. One amusing line, from Harding to Horton on his political ambitions: "Do you *want* to be a senator, or can't you help it?"

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