For Reel

The Flirting Widow (1930)
July 18, 2012, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William A. Seiter

The all-too-brief career of Dorothy Mackaill has gathered renewed interest since the recent DVD release of her forgotten pre-Code classic Safe in Hell. Even if The Flirting Widow doesn’t satisfy on its own, as an example of her talents it is somewhat suitable, particularly in the early moments as she arrives on the screen as an androgynous, feisty beauty, retorting to the insult of, “In that outfit you almost look like a man.” with “In that mustache you look like a man… almost.” The rather typical plot involves Mackaill inventing a fiancée so that her younger sister can attain their father’s consent to marry. When a phony love letter written to the fake man is accidentally mailed, it is received by Basil Rathbone, who arrives at the manor in order to figure out who it was that sent it. Most romantic comedies involve a similar case of confused identity, but even still this particular situation seems needlessly contrived and often cruel. Rathbone persists with his ruse on Mackaill for no particular reason given that the potential relationship is not in any way threatened should he reveal his true identity. There are no stakes, nothing to pull them away from one another – it is simply a long wait until Rathbone has decided that he’s had his fun. Rathbone, dull as ever, further establishes that his is a name to avoid in the early 1930s.

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