For Reel

The Lady of Scandal (1930)
July 24, 2012, 1:33 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Sidney Franklin

Adapted from playwright Frederick Lonsdale’s drawing room comedy The High Road, The Lady of Scandal is a satisfying melodrama with enough wit to overcome the stuffiness expected of the genre in the earliest years of sound. Ruth Chatterton plays a star of the stage who is initially met with great vitriol as she visits the family of her aristocratic fiancee, played by her then real-life husband Ralph Forbes. Not before long, she provokes a rejuvenating change in the dour household and falls for a cousin of the man that she is to marry. Basil Rathbone, as the object of affection, is for once surprisingly outmatched in flatness by the wooden Forbes, however Chatterton is charming as ever and the rest of the supporting cast is game. What most distinguishes the picture from lesser films of its breed – such as the 1929 adaptation of Lonsdale’s The Last of Mrs. Cheyney – is an impressive visual sophistication credited to cinematographers Oliver T. Marsh and Arthur C. Miller. Quite often, shots are framed looking down hallways, with characters positioned in each plane of the frame in order to establish maximum depth. Rathbone’s entrance is characteristic of the early sound works of Rouben Mamoulian, with a lengthy tracking shot providing a sense of three-dimensional space that was missing from many of the stagebound films of 1929 and 1930.

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