Thursday, January 14, 2010


Fay Wray is working as a cook at a diner to pay her way through law school; she falls for handsome, popular football star Gene Raymond, who is studying to be an architect but who also likes moonlighting as a crooner. They marry and for a time she's happy being a housewife, but after she gives a judge some legal advice at a party (advice about how women on a jury can be manipulated), she's offered a job as a clerk at his office. When a lawyer falls sick, she winds up getting a big break defending a rich young man in a breach of promise case, and suddenly she's the toast of the town while his career comes to a standstill. He starts singing at a nightclub to make more money, which embarrasses her to no end. One night, she and her friends go to the club; he sees Raymond kiss a singer (Claire Dodd) who's been flirting with him, gets pissed off, and leaves in a huff, throwing change at Raymond as he begins singing. They split up and he takes up with Dodd; one drunken night, Dodd passes out and her scarf catches around a couch, strangling her to death. Raymond is charged with murder, and guess who agrees to defend him in court?

Though this film takes some fun detours from the norm (like the nasty nightclub scene), it's basically a tedious "wounded male pride" melodrama: Poor Gene Raymond! His wife is making more money than he is! That’s just unnatural. To his character's credit, he doesn’t actually ask his wife to quit her job, but it is her career that is blamed for his problems. And of course, even though she gets him cleared of the murder charge, for the happy ending to be complete she also has to quit the law and let him be the breadwinner. Grrrr! But as these films go, this is eminently watchable, mostly due to the mellow Raymond and the sizzling Dodd (pictured above with Raymond), who is always a welcome presence in 30's films, though sadly she was always in support, rarely leads. Wray is a disappointment; her acting is way too broad from the first moments of the film. There is solid support from familiar faces Jessie Ralph, Frank Albertson and Robert Barrat. Worth seeing if you can overcome your revulsion for the dated "put the woman back in the kitchen" plotline. One other major dated element has to do with race: Wray is able to get the young man off on the breach of promise case because the woman involved was a black woman passing as white (!) [TCM]

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