Monday, September 15, 2008


Kay Francis doing what she does best, starring in a pre-Code movie, long-suffering and dressed to the nines. Here, she's a successful fashion designer who has, for several years, been carrying on an affair with Alan Dinehart, a married real estate mogul, despite constant wooing from her architect friend Roland Young. When her handsome brother (Allen Vincent) comes to town, Francis decides that the two should take a break, fearing that Vincent would be judgmental about the arrangement. Dinehart reluctantly agrees, but complications ensue: 1) Vincent meets Dinehart's daughter (Gloria Stuart) and the two fall in love; 2) Dinehart asks his wife for a divorce but she won't give him one; 3) Dinehart tells Stuart about his situation, thinking that she's a girl of modern morals and will understand, but actually both kids have a bit of the prig in them and they freak out, with Vincent taking a job in South America to get away. Francis and Dinehart split up until, a year later, Vincent returns and a melodramatic plot device gets everyone together for a reconciliation, partly engineered by good friend Young.

At 59 minutes, this is one breezy-fast soap opera told in a torrent of choppy staccato-paced scenes. I assume this was a second-feature "programmer," though it certainly has grade-A movie values, and it would have benefited from a little more time for character and plot development, but it's still fun to watch. Francis is fine, and it's interesting to see Young, usually cast as a slightly befuddled but sly older man, playing a romantic second lead, though we never for a moment believe that Francis thinks of him as anything but a good buddy. I usually love Stuart, but here, in her first film role, she's a little tentative (and her character is not especially likable, a rare type for her). Dinehart is too drab; we don't know what Francis sees in him to inspire her love. Marjorie Gateson is the nasty wife and Louise Beavers is a maid. The casual nature of the adulterous affair here would not have been possible a few years later when the Production Code was more strictly enforced. The title, BTW, refers not to anything racy, but to Roland Young's assumption that all great things done by men (like building skyscrapers, which Dinehart does in the course of the film) are inspired by women. [TCM]


yarmando said...

"...and Louise Beavers is a maid."

Did she ever not play a maid?

Michael said...

Well, according to IMDb, some of her other character names in movies include Cook, Washroom Attendant, Actress in Show, and Black Woman Wanting a Divorce (I'm not kidding--it's from a movie called The Merry Wives of Reno). But, yes, your point is well taken; if she's in a movie, the chances are very good she's playing a maid, though she does make some headway in the 1934 Imitation of Life in which she plays a maid who becomes Claudette Colbert's business partner.