For Reel

When Ladies Meet (1933)
August 16, 2012, 7:58 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Harry Beaumont

The first of two adaptations of Rachel Crothers’ play (the latter released in 1941 and starring Joan Crawford), Harry Beaumont’s When Ladies Meet is a sophisticated pre-Code drama that affords its female characters a refreshing amount of dignity. Myrna Loy, only a year before finding major stardom at MGM with The Thin Man series, plays a successful novelist who is carrying out an affair with her publisher, The Wizard of Oz‘s Frank Morgan. Robert Montgomery, who is enamored with Loy, orchestrates a situation to bring her face-to-face with Morgan’s wife, played by the marvelous but sadly forgotten Ann Harding. Although the plot reads like a classic soap, it is unusually devoid of sensationalism – these people are intelligent, reasonable, and intend to work their situation out not through heated arguments, but through thoughtful conversation. The script may prove too talky for some and, indeed, Beaumont finds himself at the mercy of the word, restricting himself to a fairly routine staging comparable to many lackluster adaptations of the time, but the performers exceed so thoroughly in their roles and the joy of seeing articulate women resolve their quarrels can’t be overstated in this period of Hollywood. In a comedic role, Alice Brady shines as an eccentric society woman, lightening up the oft-times suffocating austerity of the drama. An early conversation between Loy and Brady is a telling piece of feminism – Loy, having moral reservations about her affair despite loving Morgan wholeheartedly, is told by Brady that women of today are too-often “discontentedly decent” and that she should follow her heart.

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