Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Rather drab pre-Code romantic melodrama which is spiced up by a fabulous supporting performance from Kay Francis. The first scene of the film focuses on Francis, playing a renowned horsewoman who is also constantly on the prowl for men, especially working class men--we first see her making out with a stableboy who briefly becomes her butler before getting sent back to the stables. At a high society party being held to celebrate the engagement of Billie Dove to the titled Philip Strange, Dove arrives with rather high-strung, struggling violinist Basil Rathbone in tow and announces that the two have just been married. Her friends disapprove (except for Francis) and her father is pissed: "When you were a child," he says, "it was stray cats you brought home." "But," she replies, "I'm older now." The two make a go of things for a while until Francis takes a hand in boosting Rathbone's career; soon, he's a famous musician and in the middle of an affair with Francis, but he’s also in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Dove is pursued by an old friend (Kenneth Thomson), a doctor who is tending to Rathbone. Francis soon grows tired of Rathbone and starts tossing flowers at the chauffeur, which aggravates Rathbone's condition so much that he has a crippling attack on stage one night, and finds his playing arm is paralyzed.

The question we’re supposed to ask is, which woman will wind up helping the poor violinist recover? But what I wanted to know was, who will be the next target of Francis' raw sexual insatiability? Sadly, it's only the first question that gets answered, and in a predictable way. Dove was a star of silent films, but retired from the screen at the age of 29 just a couple of years after this film. She's OK here, but Francis is so much more interesting (both the actress and her character) that she wipes Dove off the screen. Rathbone is meant to be passive and "artistic," but he's so unappealing that I couldn't see what either woman saw in him, and his Italianish accent is ludicrous, reminding me of Erik Rhodes' deliberately comic accent in THE GAY DIVORCEE. There is a nice Christmas scene with snow and carolers. This is a must for Kay Francis fans, but others may not get as much enjoyment out of it. [TCM]

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