Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Lawyer Ricardo Cortez is in a department store shopping for a new coat; he runs into his estranged wife (Barbara Robbins) who is shopping for a hat; another shopper, buying gloves, is John Beal, a struggling young artist and Robbins' lover. They're all very civilized even though Cortez is still hoping for a reconciliation. She invites Cortez to dinner at her place that evening, but when Beal calls from his Greenwich Village apartment, she leaves to spend the night with him. The next day, Cortez goes to Beal's place, hoping to talk things through, but instead he finds Dorothy Burgess, a former lover of Beal's, who has just faked a suicide attempt in an effort to win Beal back and is in the middle of getting very drunk. At some point, Burgess picks up a gun, Cortez tries to take it away from her, and she winds up shot and killed. Cortez leaves, Beal is arrested, and Robbins (who doesn't know that Cortez was involved) asks Cortez to defend her lover in court, agreeing to return to Cortez after the trial, no matter what the verdict. When the hat, coat and glove of the title come into play in the courtroom, can Cortez keep his cool and save Beal without incriminating himself?

This is a short, fun, fast-moving melodrama which must have sneaked in at the tail end of the pre-Code days—the ending is unpredictable only because under the Production Code, it could never have happened. Of course, the frank bedroom arrangements could also not have been made quite so explicit under the Code. Cortez (pictured to the right of Beal) is one of my favorite 30s actors, never a big star, but always welcome as a slick leading man, lover, or crook, and he's very good here. Robbins is colorless, but Beal and Burgess make the most of their roles, and Margaret Hamilton has a fun scene as a dressmaker who calls herself Madame Du Barry. Favorite line, concerning Beal's choice of gloves: Robbins: "That glove spells quiet dignity"; Cortez: "In fact, it shrieks quiet dignity." [TCM]

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