For Reel

The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932)
April 12, 2012, 6:01 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Michael Curtiz

Ann Dvorak was one of the great stars of the pre-Code era. Most known to audiences today as Tony Camonte’s sister in Scarface, she later appeared in a number of quality early women’s pictures, such as Three on a Match, in which she steals the film from Joan Blondell and Bette Davis. The Strange Love of Molly Louvain is a tremendous showcase of her talents, a drama in which she brings to her character a satisfying complexity whilst flaunting her very modern beauty. As Louvain, she is almost deliriously self-hating – when she comes to the realization that her life is taking her down the same path as the absent mother whom she deeply resents, she doesn’t attempt to reconcile her behavior, but rather resigns herself to her fate. Her lack of self esteem is the direct result of the abusive men in her life – Ralph, the man who gave her a baby and ran off; Nicky, the thief who takes advantage of her fragility. As much as early Hollywood pictures tended to treat women with condescension and men as the ultimate care-givers (and this film is certainly not perfect in that regard), the tragedy of Louvain is that the men she encounters are more often than not predatory and opportunistic. Second billed behind Dvorak is Lee Tracy, a fast-talking journalist who spits out repartee with the police officers across the hall. The audience instantly pegs him as a crude womanizer, however in several scenes he briefly reveals his humanity – including a confrontation he has with with Louvain’s nice guy admirer, played by Richard Cromwell – and successfully enriches his character with new dimensions as the plot progresses.

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